- WSL / Andrew Nichols
- WSL / Andrew Nichols

Three rousing days of Qualifying Series (QS) action at the Essential Costa Rica Surf Pro Men and Essential Costa Rica Surf Pro are in the books, and the stage is set for finals day at Playa Jaco.

Three-to-five foot, clean morning conditions began men's Round 3 as the onshore winds crept in throughout their Round 4 affairs before action shifted to the remaining women's Round 2 heats and Round 3 match ups. Only eight competitors remain in both the men and women's events, and it took their best showings to get there.

Jose Lopez Makes His Opportunities Count

Jose Lopez (VEN) winning his Round 3 heat at the Essential Costa Rica Surf Pro QS 1,500. The flying Venezuelan looked unstoppable in Saturday's action. - WSL / Andrew Nichols

Jose Lopez put on a showcase of innovative and power surfing in both his Round 3 and Round 4 heat wins. The 19-year-old's arsenal was on full display with a massive air-reverse to earn an excellent 8.67 (out of a possible 10) and 15.77 (out of a possible 20) heat total in Round 3, only to garner a 14.94 heat total in Round 4 over fellow Quarterfinalist Chauncey Robinson. Lopez continues to impress when he's able to make his way to events and keeps his ambitions high.

"I feel so comfortable to be here with all my friends and just sending a big hug to my parents who couldn't make it, this is for all of Venezuela," Lopez said. "Earlier today I got a few good airs and the waves are so good. Seeing Leon's 10 yesterday got me so pumped and I just wanted to do the same thing. Now I'll try to keep it going and make more heats, but it's great to say I'm in the Quarterfinals after I've been looking for a good result with the limited opportunities I have."

Costa Rica's Top Performers Into Finals Day

Jairo Perez (CRI) winning his Round 4 heat at the Essential Costa Rica Surf Pro QS 1,500. Jairo Perez put on a show for his hometown crowd and obliterated the lineup en route to the Quarterfinals. - WSL / Andrew Nichols

Costa Ricans will have plenty to cheer for after Jairo Perez incredible Round 4 performance notched a win over fellow Tico Noe Mar McGonagle, who also advanced, as his dynamic backhand forehand and backhand attack were in form. Perez earned an excellent 8.23 and backed it up with a 6.77 to regain the lead over McGonagle, though eliminating countryman Anthony Fillingim. But, the 28-year-old, Jaco native knows a big day is in store for his hometown with finals day tomorrow alongside the likes of QS veteran Carlos Munoz also representing for Costa Rica.

"It's unbelievable to be in the Quarterfinals and I just thank God, I was praying the whole time to get waves and they came so I just had to perform on them," Perez said. "Noe and Anthony are such good competitors, they do this all year, but I'm not that consistent with events so to be here competing at home is amazing. I can feel the support from all the way out there and it's really encouraging to know people are supporting surfing at the WSL level here."

Spoiler Alert: Wesley Leite Eliminates North America No. 1

Wesley Leite (BRA) earning runner-up in his Round 3 heat at the Essential Costa Rica Surf Pro QS 1,500. The Brasilian continues his remarkable run at Playa Jaco and claimed a huge win in the process. - WSL / Andrew Nichols

Wesley Leite played ultimate spoiler in the North America Regional Title race as both No. 1 Kevin Schulz and No. 2 were pitted against each other in Round 4. Leite's explosive forehand was relentless once more, earning a 13.67 heat total, and, with Mesinas' last-minute attempt, helped eliminate Schulz. The Brasilian's focus kept him sharp amid a stacked field including fellow countryman Pedro Neves and poses a serious threat to the event heading into finals day -- earning the day's highest heat singe-wave score of an 8.83.

"I'm feeling really good and my board is great right now, and I just wanted to find those lefts," Leite said. "It's so good out there and I just tried to surf my best. Thanks to God for the good waves, my good friends around me, and just all the good vibes. Lucca (Mesinas) and Kevin (Schulz) are such good surfers, but I just tried to focus on myself because I already know what they're capable of. I'm already bettering my best result so now I just want to keep going and I'll stay focused on each heat."

Luel Felipe (BRA) winning his Round 2 heat at the Essential Costa Rica Surf Pro QS 1,500. Luel Felipe's astonishing air game continues to impress. - WSL / Andrew Nichols

QS veteran and fellow Brasilian Luel Felipe also put on a showcase of powerful surfing in Round 3 and 4, posting the day's highest heat total of 16.27 in Round 4 and joins the stacked list of Quarterfinalists.

Yesterday's Women Standouts Join Top Event Threats in Quarterfinals

Leticia Canales Bilbao (ESP) earning runner-up in her Round 3 heat at the Essential Costa Rica Surf Pro QS 1,500. Leticia Canales Bilbao commanded her debut, Round 2 heat before advancing into the Quarterfinals. - WSL / Andrew Nichols

When the women's draw consists of a smaller field than the larger format, higher rated events, new faces begin to look familiar as they continually stand out from opening day on. Surprisingly many of those new faces held their ground and found their way into finals day among a stacked field of upcoming talents and QS warriors, but it was much of the same from yesterday's top performers joining debut performers.

Tia Blanco and Meah Collins Drop The Hammer

Tia Blanco (PRI) winning his Round 3 heat at the Essential Costa Rica Surf Pro QS 1,500. Tia Blanco's formidable backhand served her well with an excellent 8.00 in her debut before going mental in Round 3. - WSL / Andrew Nichols

San Clemente, Caifornia, native Tia Blanco notched a second big heat win of the day to end Round 3, after winning her Round 2 debut, with a near-perfect 9.23 to surpass Collins' 9.17 on her forehand. Blanco earned her first solid result of 2018 at the Pantin Classic Galacia Pro QS 6,000, garnering an equal 9th, and looks to continue that momentum in Costa Rica. The 21-year-old has found a new approach and it's showing great returns for the young Californian.

"I was a little nervous at the start because it was unpredictable out there, but once I got a couple I just started having fun," Blanco said. "I'm in a good mindset right now and that perfect wave came through so I was stoked. It wasn't the same at the beginning of the year, but since that last event in Spain I've just learned to have fun and realize we're blessed to be surfers. Everybody wants a good result, but at the end of the day you have to take in the waves, the environment, the people, and just have fun."

Meah Collins (USA) winning her Round 3 heat at the Essential Costa Rica Surf Pro QS 1,500. While Collins' forehand served her well, an 8.33 to be exact, she later dropped that score with an outstanding finish on her backhand. - WSL / Andrew Nichols

The women picked up right where the men left off with another impeccable display from Californian Meah Collins as she laid down the women's best performance so far -- a 17.54 heat total. Collins earned a near-perfect 9.17 on her powerful backhand, before catching one last wave to earn an 8.37, that complimented her forehand attack beautifully and moved into her first Quarterfinal appearance since the Vissla Great Lakes Pro in Australia at the start of this year.

"That was pretty awesome after I caught two rights and wasn't really feeling them so I just wanted to get a left," Collins said. "I was just in position for it and it felt really good. I changed boards today and that was a huge factor, and I hadn't rode this board yet so I'm glad it worked out like that. I'm just having a great time down here. There's opportunity with some really good waves coming in and it's just a matter of finding the rights waves, and luckily I found a couple."

Tessa Thyssen's Awakening

Tessa Thyssen (FRA) winning her Round 3 heat at the Essential Costa Rica Surf Pro QS 1,500. France's own Tessa Thyssen is looking for one last hoorah to close out the season and is on her way to doing just that. - WSL / Andrew Nichols

Tessa Thyssen's phenomenal forehand followed Collins' in the next heat and unleashed an 8.17 of her own. The French representative hasn't had the best season by her standards, only accruing one finals day performance at the Anfaplace Pro Casablanca, but has her mindset in the right direction moving forward with plenty of momentum here in Costa Rica.

"That was actually kind of tough and I'm pretty tired from the recent European leg that had a lot events in a short amount of time, but I'm so happy to surf here for the last event of my year," Thyssen said. "I want to better my ranking since it's pretty bad right now. Losing my major sponsor really screwed up my mindset and I lost a lot of confidence so I'm trying to gain it back. It's hard with the travels and expenses, but I'm finding that rhythm again here."

Valentina Resano, along with her sister Candelaria Resano, Costa Rica's last woman competitor Rubiana Brownell, and an in-form Leticia Canales Bilbao are also into the Quarterfinals with terrific surfing.

A 8:00am MDT call will determine an 8:30am MDT start for the women's Quarterfinals to begin finals day action.

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