The WRV Outer Banks Pro pres by Pacifico title stays with the Brasilians for another year after Renan Peres Pulga's perfect event showing, not losing a single heat en route to his first-ever Qualifying Series (QS) victory.
This event marked a long-awaited, breakthrough win for Pulga and the outpouring of emotion from the 20-year-old showed what it meant to him after taking down one of the event's most in-form surfers Chauncey Robinson in the Final. The Sao Paulo, Brasil, native continued his impeccable run despite a paddle block to begin the Final, but recovered brilliantly and posted a 7.17 (out of a possible 10). Robinson tried to respond, only garnering a 5.17, before Pulga went to work on his vicious forehand attack one more time for an excellent 8.50 to put the Floridian in a combination situation he was unable to recover from -- keeping the WRV Outer Banks Pro title in Brasil for another year.
"It's just a dream come true and it's the best day of my life, I still can't believe it right now," Pulga said. "I just want to say thank God and my family, and to all those who have supported me because it's been a hard year after losing my sponsor. I had a lot of people that helped me and my friends have been amazing, this win is for all of them and I didn't come for anything less than a win."
Pulga battled through an all-Brasilian Semifinal affair against QS veteran Alan Donato after eliminating top QS threat in attendance Cam Richards in a big Quarterfinal, after already having won his Round 4 heat. Now, the Brasilian prepares for more events with his focus ready and has the confidence to back it up after putting together a flawless run in Outer Banks.
"I think God gave me a lot of opportunity in this contest at the right time in my heats and it was up to me to perform," Pulga added. "The waves were so good and we could really show our surfing the last two days. Getting those scores got my confidence up and now I'll go to the Philippines for a chance at more points there after earning some money here. Then, I'll just try to keep the jersey on at home if those events run and see what happens next."
Robinson Nearly Goes The Distance Once Again
The Melbourne Beach, Florida, native's outstanding finals day run earned him a second QS Finals appearance, but just fell shy of the top podium once more. Robinson's newly found mindset continued to push him forward and cap off a great East Coast leg run. It was no easy task for the 20-year-old getting to the Final, overcoming the explosive surfing of Nolan Rapoza in the Semifinals after dealing with former WRV Outer Banks Pro Champion Michael Dunphy in the Quarters following his Round 4 win and nearly making it a perfect event himself.
"Last time I got here I know it wasn't going to be my last Final, I just wasn't sure when it'd happen so it feels really good," Robinson said. "I really want to get a win now after that tough loss. It was a big day and Dunphy is one of the East Coast's best, I've looked up to him and that was cool going blow-for-blow with him. I thought my first Final in Barbados may have been a fluke, but now I'm ready for more and I'll get set for the Costa Rica event after some time at home. Every event's different and you go into each one differently with your head space, but I'm feeling a lot more confident."
Equal Third For Rapoza: "I Feel Like I've Matured In My Surfing"
The Long Beach, California, native fell just shy of a Finals appearance once more after matching his best result in 2018 with a Semifinal finish. Rapoza and Josh Burke have a lot of respect for each other in the water and both gave their all in a tight Quarterfinal bout that swung Rapoza's way after numerous aerial attempts accompanied by his power turns. It was one of the slower heats of the day before a battle between Rapoza and eventuall runner-up Robinson ensued in the Semifinals, this time leaving Rapoza on the outside looking in. But, the 20-year-old remains positive and is doing some of his best surfing since becoming North America Pro Junior Champion.
"That last heat with Chauncey I thought I could've got it, but that's how it goes and I'm happy with that result," Rapoza said. "I want to make one of these Finals and how I'm surfing right now, I know it'll come eventually. This year I feel like I have a head on my shoulders as opposed to the last few years and feel that I've matured in my surfing. Finally I feel like I'm getting smarter and now it's just about learning to make it through this last heat. God's just going to have to be on my side one time. I kept thinking he was in this one and I was really positive in this event, and I'll take that into the next events."
Pulga Vs. Donato: Passing the Torch
Donato had to earn his Semifinal berth the hard way after an absolute battle with now North America No. 1 Kevin Schulz. The two traded waves throughout their Quarterfinal bout with Schulz needing a 7.97 as time began ticking down and took to a big air-reverse that fell just shy of the mark, earning a 7.40. Donato played defense until time ran out and left Schulz in need of 7.48 when the clock ran out.
But, the 2014 event runner-up was quick to give Pulga his due after an explosive Semifinal matchup that witnessed the two trade waves until the final horn. The 32-year-old sees it as passing the torch to his younger countrymen and has Outer Banks in his future plans for years to come, but heads back to Brasil for a shot his national tour there. Pulga drew first blood with an excellent 8.23 on his powerful forehand, displacing loads of water with each turn, but Donato was on the wave right behind him and ripped his into an excellent 8.17 of his own.
"I'm so happy with that result even though I would've liked to win, but Pulga was ripping and he could do it for me (laughs)," Donato said. "I knew going in it was going to be very hard and I just tried to choose those good waves, and the last wave just didn't come. It's really great for us Brasilians here because everyone gives support to us and maybe when I finish my career I'll just keep coming back here with my wife, maybe kids when we have them. I have such a great connection with this place and I'll be back for sure."
The next North America QS event will be the Essential Costa Rica Surf Pro QS 1,500, October 4 - 7 and followed directly by the Pismo Beach Open QS 1,000, October 11 - 14.