Rachel Presti Breaks Through With Phenomenal, Maiden QS Victory
In a stacked women's field, 16-year-old Presti was able to overcome big odds that pushed her all the way to her first-ever QS win. Presti was in disbelief coming out of the water after eliminating one of the event's best, Blanco, in as afternoon conditions began to deteriorate from pumping Playa Jaco just hours before. A slow start from both competitors culminated with Presti finding a near-excellent 7.50 before solidifying her victory with an 8.10, leaving Blanco in a combination situation with no time left to recover.
"I'm so excited, this is such a great feeling to actually win a QS and just crazy to think about right now," Presti said. "I wasn't nervous at all actually just being my first Final and there was no pressure it felt like. I've just been trying to save my energy throughout my freesurfs to put all of it into the heats and this win gives me a lot of confidence knowing I can win these kind of contests. Every time I come into these events it's against the bigger girls and it's a little nerve-racking so this feels really good."
Presti's run to the Final started with a fellow event dark horse, 14-year-old Valentina Resano, before taking on the event standout Meah Collins in a slow, gritty Semifinal. But, the Floridian showed her perseverance throughout the contest and a massive finals day run to earn a well-deserved break from events.
"I was really nervous going into that Semifinal just because I wanted to make the Final so bad," Presti added. "Meah's so good and we all want to make that Final so I just tried to stay focused and calm. It was a little mushy and inconsistent out there so you had to be on the good ones. Now I'll get to be at home for a little bit and it'll be nice to let this soak in."
Blanco Matches Career Best Runner-Up in Amazing Form
It's been over two years since Blanco's last Final appearance where she earned runner-up at the Shoe City Pro and, unfortunately for the San Clemente, California, competitor, it was déjà vu. Blanco's Quarterfinal win over 12-year-old, event sensation, Candelaria Resano set the pace for her day and had to overcome one of the Quarterfinals most in-form competitors Leticia Canales Bilbao. Now, the 21-year-old is taking all the positives away from a great weekend of competing that witnessed herself hit a new level of surfing the jersey and is looking for a big finish to 2018.
"This was a very fun contest for me and I think it was the first time I got a 9-point ride in a QS so I was bummed not to get those in the Final, but I'm so happy for Rachel," Blanco said. "It's really well-deserved and I've got a few more contests to do with the Corona Pro (Pro/Am) in Puerto Rico before the QS 3,000 in Japan then the QS 6,000 to end the year. It was great to make it back in the Final and I'll try to build on this momentum, but it was all good vibes here and I'll take that with me."
Noteworthy Finishes: Collins' Resurgence
Like, Blanco, Collins has experienced the ups and downs of what the QS brings upon its competitors, but this week was nothing short of stunning for the young Californian. The 19-year-old fell to eventual winner Presti in a wave-starved Semifinal, but Collins still retained the event's highest heat total of a 17.54 and looks to continue this momentum into the Pismo Beach Open.
"I feel like my heats sometimes don't have waves and that was one of them so after Rachel got that wave to start the heat which set her in a good rhythm," Collins said. "The heat before ours was nuts, the guys were ripping, so I had a feeling ours was going to be tough. You can't control Mother Nature, but it was such a blast being here in Costa Rica and surfing in that Semi with a good friend."
Bilbao Continues Her Rise
One of Europe's QS warriors Bilbao looked poised for a big run through finals day after a highly-anticipated Quarterfinal with an in-form Tessa Thyssen, but eventual runner-up Blanco was unstoppable. Bilbao's astonishing forehand put on a display of power hacks to earn an excellent 8.50, though couldn't carry that performance over and was in need of a 6.70 when the final horn sounded. It marks one of Bilbao's best results on the QS this season and the 23-year-old has her hopes up.
"This one of my best contests from start to finish, but that high tide made it hard to get the good ones in the Semifinals, but I'm happy with my performance," Bilbao said. "I improved one of my results so that's a good feeling. I'm not sure if I'll make it to Australia at the end of the year not having a major sponsor, but maybe when I go back home I'll have some money from this one and try to get there. I think next year is going to be a good year after getting some results this year so I'm stoked."
The next North America QS event will be the Pismo Beach Open beginning October 11 - 14 at Pismo Beach Pier, California.