The QS10,000 ABANCA Galicia Classic Surf Pro wrapped today with the unlikeliest of stories, the rise of a virtually unknown surfer to a national hero status and a major win for Japanese surfing.
18 year-old Amuro Tsuzuki just took out one of the biggest events in the world, putting an exclamation mark to an incredible week of high-performance surfing.
Tsuzuki came to Pantin ranked 56th on the Qualifying Series and probably on no one's radar when we talked big picture and the qualifying stories unfolding in Galicia with the massive amount of points on the line. She entered competition in Round 1 and grinded through a first heat with average scores, still keeping a very low profile.
It all changed in Round 2 though when she posted a 9.07 for her seamless backhand attack of the long lefts of Pantin, eliminating longtime CT surfer Pauline Ado in the process. A first few eyebrows raised at the sight of the fast, precise kind of surfing Tsuzuki showed and it was only the first signs of the best yet to come.
On her way to victory, the Japanese surfer faced some of the strongest competition ever present in Pantin, taking on and defeating four past or current Championship Tour surfers in Johanne Defay, Silvana Lima, Chelsea Tuach and finally Bronte Macaulay in the Final.
"This is just a dream and right now I actually cannot believe it," she said. "I have trained and worked so hard to get to here and now, it just feels incredible."
Her win today is only the second at this level for a Japanese surfer, and the first since Hiroto Ohhara's performance at the 2015 VANS US Open of Surfing. More than just points and prize-money, the significance of her achievement resonates even louder in a year of Olympic qualification and the introduction of the sport to a global audience next year, in her home country of Japan.
"Most people in Japan don't even consider surfing as a sport," she added. "I'm hopeful that my win today will change minds and maybe get more people interested and invested in surfing in our country."
This result has not only propelled the young surfer into major spotlight, she also landed in 8th position on the Qualifying Series leaderboard, and with potential double-qualifiers through the CT, if the season ended right now she would get a spot on next year's Top 17. The year is definitely not over, but with the caliber of surfing she displayed in Pantin and the maturity with which she took on finals day, Tsuzuki is allowed to dream big and we could have a new, exciting face on tour in 2020.
In the Final, unfortunately waves didn't really play their part and Bronte Macaulay couldn't quite showcase the level of performance she put on all week. Nevertheless the Australian, who sits 11th on the CT right now, bagged a major result with the runner-up, taking command of the QS with an astonishing 20,950 points which sees her lock her spot on next year's CT roster.
"It was a disappointing Final but overall a great event in a beautiful part of the world, I always look forward to coming back here," she said. "I've definitely not got any kind of pressure now heading into the rest of the CT season but I still really want to make the Top 10, it's been my goal since the start of the year. Amuro has been the standout surfer this whole event and to see her mom cry on the beach and all the Japanese girls come down to pick her up was amazing. She's so talented and only 18 so it's great to see someone like her break through."
In the Semifinals, Macaulay defeated Macy Callaghan and Tsuzuki eliminated Chelsea Tuach. Both surfers made a huge jump in the QS rankings, reaching 19th and 9th respectively before the last few events of the season.
With the completion of the ABANCA Galicia Classic Surf Pro, the current Qualifying Series Top 10 is as follows:
Global Qualifying Series Top 10:
1 - Bronte Macaulay
2 - Sage Erickson
3 - Isabella Nichols
4 - Tatiana Weston-Webb
5 - Caroline Marks
6 - Brisa Hennessy
7 - Alyssa Spencer
8 - Amuro Tsuzuki
9 - Keely Andrew
9 - Chelsea Tuach
Surfers will have a choice a smaller QS events across the globe over the next two months, and the final big event will be the QS6,000 Port Stephens Toyota Pro from November 12-17 in Australia.
Competition also ran through 6 more heats of the men's Round 2 before being called off and surfers will be back at 9 a.m Thursday for a potential early re-start.
The ABANCA Galicia Classic Surf Pro is scheduled from September 1-7, 2019 at playa de Pantin, Galicia / Spain. For all results, photos, video highlights and press releases, log on to worldsurfleague.com.