Finals day in paradise culminated with Tony Silvagni and Maria Fernanda Reyes claiming well-deserved wins at the inaugural Rincon 50 Surf Fest. Clean, two-to-three foot swell at Domes provided beautiful conditions for competitors to showcase more of their style and power as Silvagni and Reyes stood apart from their fellow contingent throughout the week.
Double Whammy for Silvagni
This marked a big, second LQS win for Silvagni, deeming him the 2018 North America Regional Champion after putting on a clinic during his finals day campaign. The Carolina Beach, South Carolina, native's Final started off brilliantly with a 7.75 (out of a possible 10) before keeping to his strategy and finishing in a flurry of action against runner-up Kevin Skvarna. The duo battled in the final minutes that started with Silvagni nose-riding and cross-stepping his way to an excellent 8.75 to all but seal his win.
"Puerto Rico is my second home and to do this in front of all my friends that I've met over the years here feels great," Silvagni said. "I really wanted to win this contest so to make it happen feels incredible. There were some really great waves shaping up in that Final and I waited patiently for the second set which paid off in the end."
Silvagni looked unstoppable to start today's proceedings en route to garnering his first Regional Title. He earned a 16.30 (out of a possible 20) heat total in his Quarterfinal bout with possible 2019 rookie Steven McLean before dismantling event threat Kai Hamase with the contest's highest single-wave score of a near-perfect 9.50 and heat total of 17.50.
"It's insane to win a North America title," Silvagni added. "It's been a dream of mine to win one and I'm really thankful for my family, friends, girlfriend, and her family for being here to support me. I've been working on being more patient to catch a quality wave and I noticed that throughout the competition. There were a lot of great surfers here like Kai Hamase who I had to face in the Semis, but Kevin Skvarna was just insane doing some perches through critical sections of the wave."
Skvarna Gets the Job Done, Secured for 2019
Skvarna's late comeback efforts were cut short needing an excellent 8.66, but the San Clemente, California, native put on a show to finish things off. The 20-year-old kicked it into high-gear on the way to the Final, taking assertion in his Semifinal bout against 2x World Champion Piccolo Clementeand earning an excellent 8.50 to all but seal a massive heat win.
Skvarna also eliminated another South American contender, Julian Schweizer, in a close heat that came down to Schweizer's last ride, but the runner-up wasn't to be outdone and punched his ticket for a spot among the world's best in 2019.
"It's super nice to know I'm in next year and takes off all the pressure heading to Taiwan because I surf better when I'm in that mindset," Skvarna said. "I'm happy I took the time to come here and see everyone, as well as get the focus started. It's really inspiring to see all guys like this coming up because there's masses of longboarders around the world no one knows that can surf so well. But, to know I can set a goal and make it happen means a lot."
Also earning their way into Taiwan, Steven McLean and Austin Hollingshead are confirmed for a shot at World Longboard Championships -- and making their way onto the Tour full-time next season with a result or if both Silvagni and Skvarna double qualify.
Maiden WSL Win for Reyes
One of the women's top performers deservedly took her first-ever LQS win and Reyes' concluded her 2019 with a victory. The Peruvian held the highest heat totals in every round heading toward the Final and showcased her form and poise one last time to overtake runner-up Kaitlin Mikkelsen.
It was no easy road for Reyes, taking down one of the top event threats, and a surfer who will be competing in Taiwan later this month, Avalon Gall in the Semifinals. But, it was all Reyes in the Final and she prepares to make next year count.
"I can't believe I finally won an LQS and I'm so happy to take in this moment," Reyes said. "This event was incredible and it's only my second time here in Puerto Rico so I'm excited to come back and surf against all these girls again. I'm really motivated and this inspires me to go home and prepare for getting back to the World Tour even stronger. My dream is to become a World Champion."
Mikkelsen May Have Lost the Battle, But Won the War: North America Champion
Mikkelsen took over finals day starting with a Quarterfinal win against Emily Flannagan before taking down 15-year-old event threat Brooke Carlson in the Semifinals. The 31-year-old now prepares for a big finish to 2018 at the World Longboard Championships in Taiwan alongside the world's best and a shot at her first World Title after claiming her first North America Regional Title with a runner-up finish.
"I'm really excited to be North America Champ even though I wanted to get that win badly," Mikkelsen said. "I've got more fire in my belly than ever and Taiwan it is, those girls better watch out (laughs). It got way better than the first day and it was great to have some size to put it all on the line for bigger turns, long nose-rides, and not having to baby a wave in."
"I haven't done an event like this since last year so it was a great way to prepare just getting used to priority, turning it on for heats, and realizing what it's like," Mikkelsen added. "This was an all or nothing event and it teaches you to just put everything out there. You can't hold back, there's no second chance so I just wanted to give it my all."
The World Longboard Championships will be held from November 26 - December 2 at Jinzung Harbor, Taiwan.