Andy Criere and Garazi Sanchez-Ortun have won the first edition of the Santa Cruz Pro 2016 today in three-to-four foot surf at the main venue of praia de fisica in front of a packed beach enjoying a hot summer day in Portugal.
Andy Criere let no time go by before taking action, starting on a right that reformed as a left to perform his signature forehand carves for a 6.67 in the opening minutes of the final. A better wave presented itself shortly after, offering the young Basque surfer even more potential to showcase his excellent surfing for an 8.33 and a firm grip on the heat. An out-of-rhythm Jose Ferreira scoured the lineup to find similar waves but couldn't quite compose with the conditions as well and never really threatened Criere's supremacy.
A former finalist in last year's Pro Anglet, Criere claims his first QS event win today and climbs up to fourth in the 2016 European Title race.
"I'm beyond stoked ! After last year's final I really wanted to win an event and today was my day I guess," an ecstatic Criere stated. "Everything went my way, day's like this don't come too often so I'm really enjoying this. I'll continue to work hard and have as much fun as I can because that's when I perform. I've loved every minute of this week here in Portugal."
Ferreira had a near-perfect run through this event, collecting five consecutive heat wins on his way to the final where he unfortunately couldn't continue to select the right waves and surf them the way he had this whole week. This runner-up result marks the Portuguese's highest placing and the sign of a new-found form going into the summer grind.
"Second place is great, I got through a few heats and was in a good rhythm until the final where I just couldn't do anything right," he said. "Andy is a great surfer, he was smarter than me and deserved that win, congrats to him. It was really nice having an event at home, I felt like I was surfing good and hopefully I can keep that momentum going into the next events in Europe and even further for the rest of the season."
In a slow start to the women's final, Carol Henrique and Garazi Sanchez-Ortun exchanged average scores for the first half of their matchup, trying to navigate an ever-changing lineup on the incoming tide.
Henrique started on a clean left-hander and performed two good backhand turns for a 5.43, barely taking over the lead with a little over five minutes remaining. Sanchez instantly answered with a single-maneuver wave, a strong forehand closeout turn to once again change the heat's situation. Time quickly winded down and Sanchez claimed her first-ever Qualifying Series win.
With her victory today, Sanchez climbs up to claim the European QS title race pole position before the busy six-event regional summer leg.
"I approached that heat like any other and really not feeling like it was a final, Carol and I weren't close from each other so we didn't battle directly and thankfully I got the better two waves," she said. "Zarautz was a good event for me but I wanted to crack that final so I'm happy to do it today and take the win. The European title is definitely not something I've thought of, we're only just starting this season's leg so we'll see what happens in the coming weeks."
Portugal's Henrique had a great start to her finals day campaign and unfortunately couldn't repeat her semifinals heroics as she kept chasing after waves in the final. The young surfer improved on an excellent third place in Israel earlier this year and claims her career-best result to date.
"I'm really happy to be competing here in Portugal and take a second place result," she admitted. "Garazi was stronger than me today and conditions were tricky, I couldn't really figure out where to sit, but that's competition. I'm super excited about this summer and happy to start the leg with a strong result like this one."
European surfers will next meet at the upcoming Boardmasters, Cornwall from August 10-14, 2016 in Newquay, Cornwall / England.
Following today's completion of the inaugural Santa Cruz Pro 2016, the current European rankings Top5 stands as follows:
Men's European QS:
1 - Jonathan Gonzalez (CNY)
2 - Jorgann Couzinet (REU)
3 - Gony Zubizarreta (ESP)
4 - Andy Criere (FRA)
5 - Pedro Henrique (PRT)
Women's European QS:
1 - Garazi Sanchez-Ortun (EUK)
2 - Pauline Ado (FRA)
3 - Ariane Ochoa (EUK)
4 - Carol Henrique (PRT)
5 - Camilla Kemp (PRT)