- 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 Sunday's 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.

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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