The Cabreiroá Pro Zarautz Basque Country pres. by Oakley wrapped up in small, wind-affected surf. Here's a breakdown of the event's finals.
The women's Final was an exact replica of last year's with Leticia Canales Bilbao taking on Pauline Ado. The two Basque surfers from different sides of the Spanish - French border dominated all week and added yet another Final to the long list of their career accomplishments.
In a wind-affected lineup, waves were few and far between and Canales Bilbao got the better start with a 5.17 on her first wave. Ado answered with a low 4.00 but the first 15 minutes were a quiet affair where both surfers scoured the lineup for opportunities to showcase their surfing.
Canales Bilbao further extended her lead with a 4.50 and Ado finally found a decent wave on the 13-minute mark, linking together a couple of turns on her backhand for a 5.20 to stay in the fight. Canales later paddled for a wave which offered no potential and opened a door for her opponent, giving her first priority with about five minutes on the clock.
Fortunately she managed to find a good little right to improve on her scoreboard and push Ado's requirement just slightly higher. The French surfer waited patiently and selected a much better right, and tore it to pieces all the way to shore for a 7.33 to turn the heat in the dying moments and take the win.
"I'm so happy to win again here, it's a special place for surfing and for me," she stated. "I feel like yesterday was the hard day and I was already happy to have had a few good heats and make finals day. I was handling the pressure pretty well but that Final was really stressful."
Ado's illustrious career count six QS event wins, including three in Zarautz (2016, 2018, 2019). The Anglet local who spent five years on the Championship Tour showed once again she's a brilliant competitor, capitalizing on every opportunity she gets in any heat.
"Leticia surfed a great final and I'm sure she's going to get her win soon too," she added. "I was just lucky to have that last opportunity cause the waves were hard to find out there. Winning again this week is going to be a great confidence boost because before the European leg I didn't really have any good results."
Canales Bilbao will continue to chase her first win on the Qualifying Series as she conceded her career's third Final. The Basque surfer whose best result to date is a runner-up at the QS6,000 Pantin Classic and an overall 25th place on the QS will next bring her lethal rail-to-rail surfing to the shores of South Africa for the SA Open of Surfing.
"It's super frustrating cause I lead that heat for 33 minutes," she reflected. "But overall I'm really happy with my performance this week and I'll continue to work hard to get that first win. I'm off to South Africa for my next QS event and I'm really excited, I've never been there and it's going to be an exciting adventure."
In the men's Final, last year's finalist Maxime Huscenot took on Vicente Romero and it was the Spaniard who started quickly with a 6.83 on a long left, and quickly added an excellent 8.50 on his scoreboard to put Huscenot under pressure early on.
Romero's flair was impressive as he flew through the flat sections and attacked the lip viciously, adding small variants in each turn. He continued to build momentum and improved his backup with a 7.20 while Huscenot struggled to find the same rhythm he had all week. The Frenchman posted two mid 6s and realistically needed two new waves to challenge Romero for the lead.
Huscenot left no stone unturned as he multiplied attempts to turn the situation but as the tide dropped and conditions continued to deteriorate he was unable to find the right waves and Romero walked away with his first-ever win on the Qualifying Series.
"I'm beyond happy to finally win my first event," he said. "All the hard work finally pays off, I was happy with a Semifinal result but when you get that close, all you want is the win and I'm happy to get it today."
Romero has been a dominant force in European surfing for years, as a Junior first and on the Qualifying Series since 2011. The 1,500 ranking points claimed today will boost him up inside the Top 30 and offer him a chance to surf in the bigger events of the season.
"I had a good strategy and once I got my two good scores I relaxed a bit and tried to manage the heat with priority," he continued. "It's definitely going to help my season and I can't wait for the next events."
Huscenot claimed back-to-back runner-ups in Zarautz, defeated last year by Jorgann Couzinet and Romero today. The French surfer from Reunion Island produced some of the best surfing seen all week and collected huge scores along the way but was unable to find the right waves in the Final and was forced to settle for second place.
"I wasn't even supposed to surf here this week so of course I'm super happy with a second place," he said. "I started in the first round and I had some very consistent, high heat totals so that's very positive. I managed to surf all kinds of conditions and more importantly my knee handled it well."
With the completion of the Cabreiroá Pro Zarautz Basque Country pres. by Oakley, the European rankings have once again changed, here's the new current Top 5:
The European Qualifying Series will now take a long break until the traditional summer leg which will kick off at Boardmasters, on August 7, 2019.
Tune in from May 8-12, 2019 to watch the event LIVE and check out all the photos, videos and updates right here on worldsurfleague.com!