A massive finals day unfolded at the White Buffalo HYUGA Pro with four different winners waiting to be decided by day's end in the women's QS 3,000, men's QS 1,000, and both the men and women WJC Asia Championship. Waves pulsed into the lineup to provide plenty of opportunity at the fun beach break but only those who could stay in rhythm and attack when needed thrived.
In the end, it was qualification threat Zahli Kelly, now two-time Hyuga Pro winner Shun Murakami, and Asia Regional Pro Junior Titleholders Ketut Agus and Sara Wakita who emerged victorious over their respective fields.
Kelly Takes Third-Career QS Victory in Dramatic Fashion
A battle of the next generation unraveled in the Final between Kelly, 15, and Spencer, 17, with Spencer off to a quick start to put up a 12.40 (out of a possible 20) heat total as Kelly could only manage a 5.17 (out of a possible 10) start - struggling to find a back up. But, needing a 6.97, Kelly fell just shy with a 6.17 and found herself back in the heat with a chance to dismount Spencer from the lead. Heading into the final minutes it seemed as though the Californian would earn her first-ever QS victory but it wasn't to be as Kelly found a running righthander in the dying minutes and unleashed her forehand attack for a 7.50 and her third-career QS win.
"I feel a bit overwhelmed, it's a bit of a shock that it's actually happening and winning that heat," Kelly said. "I couldn't really hear the commentator the whole heat and just paddled and was lucky to get a good wave. I'm just super stoked right now. I haven't worked out what this will do for qualifying but it'll help for sure."
Kelly's road to the final was no easy task having to face fellow Australian Philippa Anderson in the Semifinals and former WSL Junior Champion Vahine Fierro in the Quarterfinals. The win moves Kelly from No. 11 to No. 9, currently sitting in a qualification position for the 2020 CT with just one event remaining in her home country - the Port Stephens Toyota Pro QS 6,000.
Second Hyuga Pro Title for Murakami
The men's QS 1,000 Final was nothing short of an intense battle between Murakami and Shuji Nishi to claim the 2019 win. Murakami's backhand surpassed that of Nishi as both found righthand runners that allowed for multiple maneuvers on each wave as Murakami opened up with a 6.17 to get started. The former Hyuga Pro winner stayed busy and ultimately found a heat best 7.83 to all but secure his victory heading into the final minutes. But, just to ensure a win, Murakami garnered a 7.23 to leave Nishi needing an excellent score when the final horn sounded.
"I'm so happy to win this event," Murakami said. "It's only a 1,000 but I'm still so stoked on it. Thank you to all my family and friends for their support and my sponsors as well. Thank you to WSL and Hyuga City for everything."
Agus and Wakita Earn Their Asia Regional Titles, Spots into WSL Junior Championships
Agus looked in fine form in the QS 1,000 before a Round 4 exit but took that fire into the WJC Asia Championship to claim a massive win over Japanese contingent Arashi Murata, Monnojo Yahagi, and Shohei Kato. The win sends Agus, alongside Murata and Yahagi who finished runner-up and third-place respectively, to the WSL Junior Championships as he will contest against the best competitors 18-and-under from around the world beginning November 26 - December 1.
"I'm so happy to win this junior event and now I'm to WSL Junior Championships next month, I can't believe it," Agus said. "Thank you for all the support from the crowd who were cheering me on and to Hyuga for having us. This was a great event and I couldn't be more stoked."
Wakita is in the midst of an incredible 2019 season as she currently sits No. 13 on the rankings as a qualification threat and now earned her first-ever Pro Junior victory at the WJC Asia Championship. The Japanese competitor faced fellow, in-form compatriots Shino Matsuda, Minami Nonaka, and Kana Nakashio in a stout Final. Wakita's slim lead heading into the final minutes was strengthed with a final effort that earned her a 7.83 and a spot into the WSL Junior Championships alongside runner-up Matsuda.
"I'm so glad to win the Pro Junior title and can't thank everyone enough for putting this event on for us," Wakita said. "This is my first Pro Junior victory and I'm just so happy to be here competing. It was a great week and now I hope to keep this momentum into the QS 6,000 and World Juniors."