The QS3,000 Seat Pro Netanya wrapped up today in bumpy three-to-four foot surf. Here's a breakdown of the event's finals.
Final: Eithan Osborne vs. Tristan Guilbaud
The Final started on a slow pace with both surfers struggling to find the waves that saw them score big earlier today. Eithan Osborne got into a good rhythm midway through and started putting slightly better scores on the board to apply pressure on Guilbaud.
The disappearing act from the swell was the main conversation for the first thirty minutes until a good set gave both surfers an opportunity to improve their scoreboard. Splitting the peak, Guilbaud went to his backhand on the left and locked in a couple of good turns for 5.43, Osborne went right and unleashed a big first turn and a couple smaller ones for a 6.20 to reinforce his lead. As time ran out the situation remained and Osborne claimed his first-ever Qualifying Series win.
"This feels incredible, I didn't think it could be that good but it is," he said. "My grandpa's brother and uncles live here and my mom's grandpa was from here so yeah we have family ties here. It's my second time visiting and I always have an incredible time, I've met a lot of people who told me how special it was for me to win and of course it makes it extra special for me too."
Osborne almost bowed out twice earlier today and saved his campaign with last-second heroics including an incredible backside rotation that came in as a 9.33 to advance in first out of Round 5. He later squeezed into first in the Quarters with another last-second wave but this time the exact score he needed to tie with Reo Inaba overall and take the win with a higher best number.
"A lot of buzzer-beaters and the Final was pretty slow but thankfully it all worked out!" he continued. "It's great to go to those airs when I need it, it's definitely a huge help when I'm in trouble. I never expected to start the season as well as this, so this result is definitely going to help a lot, it's a lot of points!"
Tristan Guilbaud claimed his career-best result to date with a runner-up and the allocated 2,250 ranking points. His powerful and stylish brand of surfing suited the waves perfectly in Israel and the Frenchman could have really challenged Osborne for the win with a little help from the sea in the Final.
"My goal was to reach the Semis but I honestly didn't expect to make the Final heat and it's an incredible way to start the year," he said. "I'd love to make the Triple Crown at the end of the year and starting like this definitely helps. I gained a lot of confidence from this week and some events last season so I feel great at the moment. I have awesome boards and great support from my sponsor Protest so all the lights are green at the moment."
By finishing ahead of his compatriots Couzinet, Huscenot, Becret, Fontaine and Germany's Glatzer, Guilbaud claims an early lead on the regional rankings and will be the man to beat when the European Qualifying Series return early next month.
"Watching Jorgann win the last two years was inspiring," he added. "Last year I didn't do all the regional events but this time I'll definitely make the effort and go for it. It's definitely a title that counts and I believe in my chances."
Semifinal 1: Eithan Osborne vs. Jorgann Couzinet
An average start for both surfers was quickly forgotten when the Californian launched into an inverted forehand rotation, extremely close to a backflip, and posted an 8.27 to take the lead. Couzinet replied with a combination of three powerful backhand turns for an 8.67 but was still chasing an average backup.
The Frenchman did everything he could for the remainder of the heat but never really found a wave of consequence and was forced out in equal third, making him the most consistent surfer in Israel with a runner-up, a third and two fifths but Couzinet had placed his hopes higher and for good reason.
"I made a lot of mistakes in that heat so I'm very disappointed with my choices and my attitude in that semi," he reflected. "I've taken a long break and really wasn't much prepared coming here so I'll still take away a lot of positives from this event. I'll definitely be back next year to win it, it stings to see it taken away again this year."
Semifinal 2: Tristan Guilbaud vs. Cole Houshmand
The second Semi was a close affair too, and another French vs. California battle between Guilbaud and Houshmand. Both surfers fighting for a first Final of a QS3,000. Guilbaud put his best score on the board, a 7.60 for a single turn, a massive layback on a good section. Houshmand who at first stuck to the wave face, later tried to go to the air but couldn't find a big enough section to chase the 6.05 required to turn the heat. His equal third today is his best result on the Qualifying Series so far and a great way to launch his first season full-time on the tour.
"I'm super happy with my performance and I felt like I was doing everything right," he said. "It couldn't be a better start to the year for me and I really look forward to the rest of the season. I'm off to Hawaii after this for the Volcom Pipe Pro and I really look forward to getting barreled there. It's a super stacked contest so it'll be a good challenge, but I'm going there every winter since I'm 9 years old so I feel comfortable there."
With the completion of the Seat Pro Netanya, the 2019 European title race has officially started, here's the current Top 5:
Surfers will now have a couple of weeks to prepare for Stop N°2 on the European QS, the men and women's QS1,500 Las Americas Pro Tenerife in the beautiful Canary Islands.
Tune in from January 10-19, 2019 and check out all the photos, videos and updates right here!