Nolan Rapoza (USA) won his first victory on the Qualifying Series (QS) in solid 10-foot (3 meter) conditions over Alonso Correa (PER) at the Maui and Sons Arica Pro Tour presented by Jeep. Rapoza became the first American to win the event in Arica in its 10-year history and was visibly emotional after being chaired up to the event site by his support crew.
"Wow, that was my first Final, that was unbelievable. It feels insane and I'm still processing everything. I haven't felt like this in a long time and I really needed it," said Rapoza as he fought back tears. "I love El Gringo, Arica, Chile and everyone here. I've been going through a real tough time at home, not getting the results I wanted. But I just kept grinding and I have to thank my mom that told me to keep going. This means so much to me. Everyone says Pipe is the best wave for a contest, but El Gringo is right there with it. Thank you to everyone that's been supporting me and I will definitely be back next year."
Despite being the largest day of the waiting period, moderate winds arrived early, clamping waves and making conditions extra challenging for the athletes. Both surfers could not make it out of the largest waves of the Final. Correa began with an early lead after threading his way through several chandeliers on a long lefthander for a 5.83, but was only able to back it up with a 3.07.
Although it was his first time in Chile and El Gringo, the young surfer from California was in complete sync with the heavy barrels all week long and maintained his form in the Final, finding two mid-range rides of a 5.43 and a 4.67 to win his first-ever WSL event.
Rapoza now jumps from 52nd to 19th place on the Qualifying Series rankings after earning 3,000 points from his first-place finish. Runner-up Alonso Correa also climbed the rankings from 27th to equal 13th with his fellow countryman Miguel Tudela (PER) after receiving 2,250 points for second place in Arica.
"I'm a little bummed that I didn't make it out of the best waves I got in the Final, but I'm still happy since this is the best result I've ever had here," said Correa. "There were a few years that I didn't even make a heat, so it's nice to make it to the winner's podium at a wave I love so much. El Gringo is one of the scariest waves in the world, so to do well here and move up in the rankings is great because my goal is to make it onto the Championship Tour (CT). Each good result is a step in the right direction, so this just gives me added motivation."
Before reaching the Final, Correa first had to get past event standout Skip McCollough (USA) in the Quarterfinals, who received the event's only perfect 10 the day before. Afterwards, the Peruvian defeated another event favorite, Dean Bowen (AUS), who earned a runner-up finish in 2016 and two Semifinal appearances in 2018 and 2019.
"This wave and this place are always intimidating and scary. But you have the potential to get the wave of your life," declared Bowen. "I got some great waves and I had a great time and I'm stoked to be back on the winner's podium for the third time."
On the other side of the draw, Rapoza took out the last remaining Brazilian in the Quarterfinals, Vitor Mendes (BRA), who is the younger brother of Championship Tour surfer Jesse Mendes. The Californian then eliminated Mihimana Braye (PYF), who took on El Gringo with aplomb, displaying a self-assurance in the heavy water conditions.
"El Gringo is a very difficult wave, but it's perfect at the same time, like Teahupoo," noted Braye. "But for me, I think it's a little bit more dangerous here because the wave breaks so close to the rocks. It feels great to compete in Chile, thank you to everyone here and I will definitely be back next year."