The Martinique Surf Pro Qualifying Series (QS) 3,000-level event came to a close today in two-to-three foot surf at the iconic Basse-Pointe point break, culminating with the victories of Chelsea Tuach and Leonardo Fioravanti. Here's a little recap of what went down in the finals.
Men's Final: Nat Young vs. Leonardo Fioravanti
The first 10 minutes of the men's final were a bit scary to be honest, deadly slow. Fortunately it all changed quickly with a first good set and both Leo and Nat having a go. Leo first, started on a mushy small wave, but it grew in the inside and gave him a section for an air, which he landed perfectly for a 7.83.
In a completely different style, Nat got the second wave of the set and performed about a million turns on his backhand, with a little variety in verticality and power, posting a 7.17. He was also the quickest to back it up, with a mid-5 for the lead.
Leo waited for another bomb and kept his board on the wave face this time, performing a series of good carves for a 7.10 to turn the heat. In the final minutes he caught another great wave and performed two big turns on the outside and a sick layback on the closeout section for a 9 point ride and the last nail in Nat's surfing coffin.
"It feels so good to win again, my last win on the QS was in 2014 I think," Leo said. "I'm stoked to win this one for me but also for the Europeans and everybody in Italy supporting me. I want to dedicate this win to two people I've lost recently, my grandmother, and Pierre Agnes from Quiksilver, who we all miss dearly."
Nat was probably the most in-form surfer all week and his wave selection was impeccable all the way into the Final, where unfortunately he met with an equally talented Leo, who seemed to have luck on his side this time.
Both surfers trying to regain their coveted spots on the elite-level WSL Championship Tour (CT) will take home precious qualifying points, and move on to the Barbados Surf Pro with lots of confidence.
"Obviously I wanted to win and I felt like I was on the way, but Leo and I had an interesting little chess game out there and he beat me," Nat said. "I felt like I was surfing good and it came down to whoever was on the best waves.Obviously Leo did, but I'm stoked with my time here in Martinique. We had decent waves all week and it was a really fun event."
Women's Final: Chelsea Tuach vs. Claire Bevilacqua
Chelsea got a quick start with two average scores on the board within the first couple of minutes and, knowing the limited number of sets on finals day, seemed to want to apply pressure on Claire from the get-go. With more waves coming through, Tuach, who's from Barbados, continued to build momentum and posts a 6.33 with a good forehand carve and fin blow.
Claire took take the patient road and stayed put in the lineup, waiting for the better and bigger waves to aim for higher scores. Midway through without many opportunities, she went for a little straight air -- which she's known for making more often than not -- but the section was a little flat and she won't get back up on the board after landing.
With time winding down, everything continued to go wrong for Claire, who selected the wrong waves while Chelsea kept her wave count up, multiplying opportunities to keep a positive rhythm going.
Both surfers got a last chance in the dying minutes and once again Chelsea got the upper hand with a solid 7.07 to seal the win.
"I've had such a great week and I think it's so important, when you're in a place you feel really comfortable you enjoy all the little things more and you carry more confidence," she said. "I've been putting together some good heats and everything worked out for me, and here I am with the win, it's a big week! I can't wait to go home and compete there soon."
After a season on the CT in 2016, Chelsea is in her second year trying to re-qualify and the 3,000 points collected today could go a long way in her bid for a 2019 seat with the WSL's Top 17.
"I've really felt all the love and support from the people here and in Barbados watching the event online," she added. "I'm super proud and I definitely won this for all of these people too, trying to make them proud."
Claire also has CT experience -- six years worth of it -- and showed why she could potentially get back there, surfing with all the maturity of a tour veteran.
"I'm so happy I made the Final and I felt I did some good surfing," Bevilacqua said. "I'm so happy to be here, I love the Caribbean and I wish there were more events here in warm water with great waves, it's perfect for a contest. I love Barbados as well, everybody is very friendly and supporting, and that left point break really suits my style so I'm looking forward to surfing there as well."
Other Notable Facts from Finals Day
Mihimana Braye carried the French hopes for a win in Martinique all the way up to the Semis, where he unfortunately stumbled upon an on-fire Nat Young, who destroyed the day's wave for a near-perfect 9.50 and a spot in the Final. Mihi's backhand in the long rights of Basse-Pointe was a sight for sore eyes and, with a little bit more luck on his side, the Tahitian could have well gone all the way in Martinique.
Crowds were also a big factor today, undoubtedly the biggest ever seen in the event's four-year history. Organizers have designed a new site structure with grandstands overlooking the point and a VIP rooftop, both filled to the brim with enthusiastic locals and tourists coming to discover a professional surfing event.
Now that the Martinique Surf Pro is in the books, surfers will continue their qualifying campaign either at the upcoming Barbados Surf Pro or back on European soil for the Caparica Primavera Surf Fest, a surf and music festival with QS, Junior QS and Longboard QS divisions.
New European QS Men's Top 5:
1 - Jorgann Couzinet (FRA)
2 - Ruben Vitoria (EUK)
3 - Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA)
4 - Charly Martin (FRA)
5 - Nelson Cloarec (FRA)
New European QS Women's Top 5:
1- Pauline Ado (FRA)
2- Maud Le Car (FRA)
3- Marion Philippe (PYF)
4- Camilla Kemp (PRT)
5- Leticia Canales Bilbao (EUK)
Tune in from March 17-24, 2018 and check out all the photos, videos and updates right here.