Finals day is locked in at the Oaxaca Pro pres. by Corona after a decisive day unfolded in four-to-five foot, occasional plus, swell. Conditions changed throughout the morning dealing with a high tide and early winds, but competitors were still able to deliver impressive performances. Competition ran through the remaining heat of Round 4 and Round 5 in its entirety to determine the Quarterfinalists and edge one step closer to claiming an all-important 1,500 points toward the QS rankings.
The brief morning hold was worth the wait as perfection came to Manuel Selman in Round 5 Heat 1 on his first attempt in the battle that included a California trifecta of Jackson Butler, also advancing, Jacob Szekely, and Kei Kobayashi. The Chilean completely disappeared behind a curtain of surging water and looked as though he would not find an exit until reemerging in pure elation. This marks Selman's first finals day of 2019 and the 30-year-old is looking to capitalize.
Californians Lead the Way to Finals Day
San Clemente, California's, Colt Ward took a fast track to the Quarterfinals with a solid Round 5 victory relying on his powerful rail-game and managing to slot into a few barrels despite growing onshore winds. Ward hasn't made his way to a finals day since the beginning of last season and has the opportunity to earn some much-needed points toward getting himself back on track heading into the 2020 season.
"I got down here super early to watch it all morning and decided to ride the shortboard with the winds coming up in the heat before me," Ward said. "Luckily it paid off and I'm stoked to get through. I haven't made a finals day since Florida of last year and I got second there so I'm just stoked to be in the Quarters. Whatever happens, happens from here on out and I'm really looking forward to seeing the boys get some big barrels tomorrow."
"I can't believe that wave came to me and I just knew I had to make it out of that barrel," Petroni said. "It means a lot to make it into finals day with my brother (Tehuen) and the waves hopefully getting bigger again tomorrow with more barrels and I can't wait."
The North America Regional QS Title is still hanging in the balance for another day after Santa Cruz, California's, Nick Marshallfound his way to a runner-up spot behind an in-form Nick Marshall in buzzer-beater fashion once again after celebrating his birthday Friday with a last-second barrel ride to advance into Round 5. Now, the 20-year-old has to make one more heat to take the race to Barbados and decide who will take the crown there if Mel can break into the Semifinals.
"I used to get buzzer-beaters all the time when I was a grom and I'm always so confident I can get one but the last few years have been tough finding those so this competition is great to get that feeling back," Mel said. "It's been a good birthday present (laughs). This contest is so much fun just enjoying yourself and all you're trying to do is get barreled out there - it's the best and you just want to keep making heats for more barrels. I've got a lot of work left to do in terms of keeping up with Noah (Schweizer) but the fact he lost earlier opens up that door so it's exciting."
Solidifying himself into a third finals day of 2019, Skip McCullough continues his strong run through the season as he currently sits at No. 100 on the QS and looks to break into the QS 10,000s heading into the winter. The La Jolla, California, native thrives in waves of consequence but showed he's capable of adjusting to performance surfing and unleashed multiple backhand, and forehand, attacks throughout his Round 5 affair with Cesar Petroni earning his place just behind him - eliminating 2019 North America Pro Junior Champ Kade Matson in the dying seconds.
"It was nice to jump back on the board I've been riding all month and this thing just feels glued to my feet. Pulling into barrels and doing turns, I just felt right at home. It was tough out there though," McCullough said. "The swell's building with big double-up closeouts over the whole beach that just detonate you. I got pinned to the bottom at least six different times, just picked up and dropped - it was pretty scary."
It's always my goal to make finals day and I've already made two heats so maybe if I can make two more that'd be insane to be in the Final," McCullogh added.
A 7:00am CDT call will determine the start time to Quarterfinals Heat 1.