Portugal's Pro Santa Cruz pres. by Oakley culminated today with the event finals in three-to-five foot surf at Praia da Fisica in Santa Cruz. Kanoa Igarashi took out the Final against Aritz Aranburu to claim the 3,000 QS points and US$12,000 in prize money.
"You could see the weather change and I really wanted to get a wave before the storm came," Igarashi said. "I'm stoked I got those two and to take the win. I love being here in Portugal, it's one of my favorite places and to share these moments with all my friends is great."
Igarashi had a near-perfect path to the Final and rebounded after a close encounter in Round 6 to post the highest numbers of the Quarters, Semis and Final. The current World No. 24, who had a rather slow start on the WSL Championship Tour (CT) so far this year can count on his result this week to boost his morale heading into the rest of the season.
"I'm super excited to go back to California now for the Founders' Cup," Igarashi continued. "I'm representing Japan in Team World so it'll be a really interesting contest and hopefully with this win I get a little bit of momentum too."
The Final was a busy affair in which both surfers got active early and started surfing a good right-hander lining up in front of the event's structure. Igarashi got the best of the first exchange with 7.83 that he quickly backed up with a 6.00-point ride. But despite repeated efforts from Aranburu, the gap was too big to fill and Igarashi paddled in, victorious.
Aranburu posted some of the event's biggest scores and combined heat totals on his way to the Final but fell short of keeping his rhythm going for another heat, eventually placing runner-up. A former CT competitor as well, the Spaniard remains a constant threat on the Qualifying Series and could very well lead a re-qualification campaign to fruition if he continues to perform at this level.
"Waves were degrading because of the high tide and the rip bowl was still very strong," Aranburu analyzed. "My wave selection was pretty bad but from what I hear Kanoa had pretty much the only good wave that came and he was surfing really really well. I'm really happy with a second place still, I wish we could have surfed on the left at lower tide I was having a lot of fun on my backhand."
Ramzi Boukhiam had a stellar run in Santa Cruz, but couldn't quite find any wave of consequence in his semifinal bout against Aranburu and eventually settled for equal third, his best result of 2018 so far. The Moroccan had previously upset the local community when he eliminated the last Portuguese in contention, CT surfer Frederico Morais.
"Conditions kept changing all day long and that right I wanted to surf turned on and off so it wasn't easy to build a gameplan," Boukhiam said. "Aritz got a bomb and I didn't so I couldn't really compete. I'm feeling great this year and so far results haven't come to me so I'm stoked to make a few heats here and hopefully get on a roll from there."
Victor Bernardo suffered a similar fate than Boukhiam, and had to watch his opponent Igarashi on all the best waves of their Semifinal while he was left scouring the lineup empty handed. The equal third place in Santa Cruz is the Brazilian's best result this season as well and will give him plenty of confidence going into the rest of the season.
"I wasn't really connected in that one and couldn't find anything to show my surfing," Bernardo said. "Kanoa and I had another heat together before and I got him but this time he was untouchable. I got new boards that I've been working on with my shaper for a while and they work great, so I'm stoked to get a result here and excited about the next events coming up."
With the completion of the Pro Santa Cruz, here's the new current European rankings Top 5:
Surfers will now move on to other regions in the world to compete for the precious points, in an effort to qualify for the CT by the end of the year. The Qualifying Series will come back for the traditional European summer leg, starting with Boardmasters in August.
Check out all results, photos and video highlights from the Pro Santa Cruz pres. by Oakley from April 24-29.