The world-renowned beach break of Playa Zicatela, Puerto Escondido, delivered for opening day affairs at the World Surf League (WSL) Men's Qualifying Series (QS) Oaxaca Pro QS 1,500 presented by Corona and the contingent in appearance rose to the occasion.
Six-to-eight foot, occasional plus size sets, steamrolled into the contest site lineup and those lucky enough earned the view of a lifetime. Competition raced through Rounds 1, 2 and 3 Heat 6 before going on hold due to afternoon winds - eventually making it to Heat 12 after resuming competition.
Leon Glatzer and Kei Kobayashi Narrowly Miss Perfection
Glatzer's breakthrough last season at the 2018 Pismo Beach Open began a momentum shift for the 22-year-old. Glatzer's year has included training with his German countrymen, winning the Quiksilver Pro QS 1,000, and an appearance at the Redbull Airborne series in France. Now, he can add a near-perfect ride at Puerto Escondido to his resume after a 9.17 to start his Round 3 debut. Glatzer navigated his way through a deep barrel, making it out after the wave regurgitated to show how deep he was, before celebrating with a fly-away air.
"I was just in the right spot and it feels really good to be here for the first time and get a good wave like that. At the moment I feel like a QS warrior (laughs). We have support from the Olympic committee in Germany and we're definitely taking this sport to the Olympics now which is insane. Between that and my sponsor it definitely feels like a new chapter in my life."
Following a brief hold with increased winds, conditions improved once more and Round 3 Heat 7 got action back underway with more impressive surfing as Kobayashi nearly found perfection of his own to kickstart his campaign on a high note. The San Clemente, California, native found himself on one of the bigger waves during opening day and navigated the barrel with speed to find his way out for a 9.00. Despite a tough season following his berth into the QS 10,000's to start the year, Kobayashi is bouncing back and looks to enjoy the moment.
"It's all barrels down here and just having fun even though it's a competition," Kobayashi said. "I've had a rough year this season so I'm just stoked to be here and super grateful for Jhony Corzo and his family for putting me up. I'm really stoked to get a 9-point ride when I had first priority and it just came to me. This is my first time here so I just want to surf my brains out and have a good time but obviously a win would be incredible since I've never won a QS. I'm just staying in the moment and enjoying it all."
Puerto Escondido Native Rogercin Ramirez Salvages Debut
Getting an interference in competition is a hard task for competitors to make their way out of the heat and Rogercin Ramirez defied the odds. Ramirez started off the heat with an early wave before taking off in front of Manuel Selman (CHL), who held a higher priority, and was given a Priority Interference meaning his second-scoring wave would not count. But the Puerto Escondido native represented brilliantly for his hometown in the dying seconds when he found a 6.93 to take the win during one of the day's slower heats.
"This is my first QS and it was really good at the end because I didn't have priority, so I had to leave the wave now that I understood it more," Ramirez said. "I just hoped another was coming and it came. I couldn't believe I got the chance and it felt so good to make it out. This is a really high level of surfing and I'm used to surfing this heavy wave, it's my home, so it's incredible to have this event here."
Californians Thrive in the Heavy Conditions
La Jolla, California's, Skip McCullough garnered the day's highest heat total of a 14.70 in Round 3 Heat 10 with his goal of getting barreled becoming a reality. McCullough is no stranger to waves of consequence with a win at the Siargo Cloud 9 Surfing Cup last year and throwing himself into slabs at the Arica Pro Tour at El Gringo in Chile. The 23-year-old knows what it takes to make his way up the ranks and embraces each new experience.
"Wherever it's barreling just throw me out there I don't care where it is (laughs)," McCulloch said. "I freesurfed for about two and a half hours before my heat because I couldn't help myself and then just went straight into that heat. I've surfed maybe a dozen heats in the last month and I feel warmed up for knowing those scenarios of being at the fifteen-minute mark and needing this - it's all about experience. It's always just getting ready for the next one and it's good to feel comfortable in heats these days."
Event organizers will convene at 7:00am CDT to determine a possible start for Round 3 Heat 13.