As predicted, gigantic waves and insurmountable sets above 20 feet (7 meters) were on hand Sunday morning at El Gringo. The wave size surpassed the reef's limits and left conditions unsurfable. With the safety of the surfers in question, and after a meeting with the WSL staff, the Semifinalists and the event organizers, the decision was made to cancel the remaining heats at the WSL Men's QS 1,500 Maui and Sons Arica Pro Tour in Chile.
The athletes left in competition, Manuel Selman (CHL), Andy Criere (FRA), Leon Vicuña (CHL) and Miguel Tudela (PER), divided an equal 3rd place finish. Each received U$ 4,150 in prize money and 840 WSL Qualifying Series ranking points.
This is the second World Surf League event in 2015 to be completed without a victor. The first occurred in July, when Mick Fanning (AUS) was attacked by a shark in the Championship Tour (CT) Final of the J-Bay Open in South Africa.
"We made a collective decision to cancel the event mainly due to the safety of the athletes," explained Klaus Kaiser, WSL South America Tour Manager. "The waves are really big, with sets over twenty feet, which makes it impossible to surf at El Gringo. We had a meeting with everyone involved, especially the four Semifinalists, and it was a unanimous decision to call off the event. Putting the athletes in those conditions was unthinkable and we were not authorized to finish the event at another location here in Arica, such as El Buey. Therefore, the competitors will share an equal 3rd place and an even split of the prize money."
Right after the decision was made to cancel the event, the semifinalist Leon Vicuña (CHL) and Guillermo Satt (CHL), in addition to a number of big wave chargers jumped at the opportunity for a tow-in session on the 25-foot-plus waves at El Buey. On Friday, plans were initiated for the Maui and Sons Arica Pro Tour to be finished off at the big wave venue, but event organizers could not obtain authorization from the Ex Isla Alacran government. The Chilean Navy also would not permit the execution of the event in another beach other than El Gringo.
"It's a shame we had to cancel the event, but it was the right decision because the waves are too big and it makes things very dangerous at El Gringo. You can't even think about paddling out," stated Leon Vicuña, recipient of the only perfect-10 point ride of the event in 2015. "Even if I didn't get the chance to win my first WSL victory, I'm still happy with a 3rd place result. I just got back from a session at El Buey and it was very big and perfect, but for a different kind of surfing."
Andy Criere (FRA) had never been to Chile before and admitted that he did not have the right boards to compete in such big conditions.
"On my way over to the event site this morning I could already tell that it was big, excessively big. I'm not an experienced big wave surfer and I felt that it was the correct decision to cancel the Semifinals because it was truly unsafe to compete at El Gringo. It's a shame because all four of us left in the event wanted the 1,500 points from the victory, but the ocean didn't provide us with an opportunity. We are surfers, we depend on the ocean, and there was no condition to compete today. This has been an incredible contest and I hope that this experience helps me out in the future."