A bit of WSL QS history was made as Makena Burke and Tiare Thompson made their way into the water after 14 years separated the last WRV Outer Banks Pro Finals from Sunday's and it was Burke who emerged victorious in her first-ever QS appearance.
It was a wave-for-wave battle from the start with the 15-year-old taking to her signature backhand attack and Thompson's powerful forehand, but Burke held the edge with an 11.76 heat total to start. However, Burke dropped the hammer with a near-perfect 9.17 to put Thompson in a combination situation needing two new scores to match the Ventura, California, native's 15.50 heat total before Burke sealed the victory with a 7.27 in the dying minutes.
"It's crazy and it hasn't even sunk in yet, it's amazing to win my first QS event," Burke said. "I knew after getting that 9-point I had a chance, but Tiare (Thompson) is such a good surfer so I never thought I had it in the bag. I just kept wanting to push my second score higher to make it unreachable for her. But, I'm just happy to get the win in the end. The tide was a huge factor and I just had my spots with both the high and low."
Burke powered through her Round 3 heat win before taking on up-and-coming talent Brooke Young in the Semifinals and ultimately notching a flawless event performance. Now, the Ventura, California, native will prepare for her next QS event after tasting success and hopes for more.
"I can walk away with a lot of great things knowing it's my first QS and I've never done an event like this," Burke added. "I'm just really proud of that and to show my surfing, as well as just have fun. While my forehand can be pretty good, it's nothing compared to my backhand just growing up with right pointbreaks. I'm so excited for Pismo now that I have some confidence and can't wait to surf another event like this."
750 Points and Motivation for Thompson
Thompson looked to be at her best heading into the Final after a dominant Round 3 performance, overtaking Tanika Hoffmanbefore eliminating her in the following Semifinal. The La Jolla, California, native earned a near-perfect 9.00 of her own, along with a 16.27 heat total, before a battle with Hoffman. This marks the 17-year-old's best QS result and will take that moving forward as she now looks for more.
"I'm glad I made it all the way to the Finals since that was my goal for the weekend," Thompson said. "That 9-pointer I got earlier today felt amazing and just wish I could've done it in the Final. I felt like I had a lot of momentum going into it, but then couldn't find the wave so I'm stoked with second. I've learned a lot and I'll use that to my advantage in Pismo, go super ready, and I want to take the win at that one. This is a confidence booster and I'm excited for the next one."
All Smiles for Hoffman
A rematch from Round 3 between Hoffman and Thompson ensued in the Semifinals, and it was Thompson who took control with a 5.50 and 5.33. But, midway through the heat Hoffman responded with a 5.93 and put herself back into contention. The South African wasted no time in finding a 5.43 back up to takeover the lead under the ten-minute mark. But, the drama wasn't done yet and Thompson earned a 6.10 to reclaim the lead before ultimately earning her spot into the Final.
Hoffman's finals day run started off in dramatic fashion after earning a 7.53 as the thirty-second mark hit and earned a spot into the Semifinals, nudging out Round 2 standouts Olivia Pessanha and Kailey Bogart. But, it was eventual Thompson who started off firing on all cylinders with a near-perfect 9.00 in the affair and a 16.27 heat total for the heat win. However, the 21-year-old Hoffman left with a smile on her face after her first Outer Banks trip success and will take lessons learned moving forward.
"There were some fun waves even though the high tide made it a bit tricky and I just ended up making a few priority mistakes," Hoffman said. "It's always great to stay in the rhythm of competing and I love the opportunity to get some points and some prize money, as well as experience new things. I came to Florida the last East Coast trip and it was freezing, the ocean was big crazy mess, so it was really refreshing to get a real taste of the East Coast. I think I hesitated once or twice and I learned that sometimes you just have to go if you see a good wall so it was a good experience overall."
Brooke Young's Learning Curve
Young earned her career best Semifinal finish and the 17-year-old is just getting started. The Point Loma, California, native fell to eventual winner Burke in a tight battle after a stunning, last-minute 4.73 earned her a runner-up in Round 3 to advance on. It's all about experience in the jersey and being thankful for Young who, at 13, overcame cancer and proudly represents for the Young and the Brave Foundation.
"I'm stoked with just getting through heats and making it my best finish yet with some fun waves today," Young said. "The first day was a little rough, but it got super fun for QS event for sure. I just wanted to get some points, travel more, so I'm happy with how it all turned out. I had some skin cancer when I was younger and it's all taken care of now, but it was scary happening at that age. It opened my perspective up. Now, I just want to keep making more results and learn how to surf better in heats."
The next North America Men and Women's QS event will be the Essential Costa Rica Surf QS 1,500 October 4 - 7 before going straight to the Pismo Beach Open QS 1,000 October 11 - 14.