Men's Final: Huscenot vs. Guilbaud
On the higher tide and with the dying swell, the Men's Final unfortunately didn't provide many set waves and the battle ensued on the insiders between Maxime Huscenot and Tristan Guilbaud. The first half of the Final was fairly slow but Reunion Island's Huscenot caught fire in the last ten minutes to put two good scores on the board for the lead.
Guilbaud made a couple of uncharacteristic errors and was left chasing a score in the 7 range with only a few minutes available on the clock. Unfortunately the ocean kept quiet and Huscenot walked away victorious.
"Azores has always been a special place for me so today it only even gets better," Huscenot said. "I had probably the best air of my life here a few years ago and some people have started calling me SATA as a nickname like the airline. I'm in a really good zone right now and finally having a lot of fun in contests so I'm frothing and looking forward to Hawaii."
Despite a decade worth of experience on the Qualifying Series, and 8 seasons in the world's Top 50, today only marks Huscenot's second victory, and the first since 2015. Fresh off an excellent Quarterfinal finish in France, Huscenot confirms his new-found form and will head to Hawaii for the Final Challenger Series event brimming with confidence.
For Guilbaud, the winless draught continues on the QS but the surfer from Vendee belts the biggest result of his career in Azores today. His surfing proved lethal in all sorts of conditions and the boost of confidence will undoubtedly bring him more opportunities to fight for the win in future events.
"Honestly I don't mind losing in the Final that much," Guilbaud admitted. "This is truly the biggest result of my career and I'd be lying if I said that wasn't highly satisfying. I made the Quarters in Morocco and really wanted to go to that next step, which today is just that. It was a tough week with all kinds of conditions and I'm just really stoked to make the Final with Maxime."
Women's Final: Bonvalot vs. Ado
In the Final, Bonvalot pulled the trigger first with a big opening score of 7.33 to apply pressure on Ado early on. Under priority the Portuguese opted to build momentum on the smaller inside waves and put herself in a perfect rhythm, catching another bomb for a 7.67 to put her opponent in a combination situation needing two scores.
As conditions slowed down on the incoming tide, Ado played the patient card out the back but no major wave came her way and eventually she had to resign to try her luck on other waves. The French surfer could never find the right sections and didn't threaten Bonvalot's lead, ultimately leading to the Portuguese's victory.
"I feel super happy with my second win on the QS this year," Bonvalot stated. "It's perfect to win twice in Portugal, in Caparica and now here. I'm speechless it just feels amazing. I saw these little waves on the inside before and I really enjoyed surfing them."
In her ninth year surfing the Qualifying Series, Teresa Bonvalot has stepped up her game in 2021, claiming her first win at the start of the season and putting a second QS victory on her resume today. The stylish goofy footer was undeniably one of the form surfers all week and kept her composure all the way to the Final horn. "I was having so much fun in that Final, I'm not sure I ever caught so many waves in a heat before," she added. "I had incredible support from my coach, my friends and family and the other Portuguese competitors here which makes this even more special."
A five-year stint on the Championship Tour and a wealth of experience on the QS allowed Pauline Ado to advance into the Final with smart surfing and strategy in tense heats, unfortunately she found a big hurdle on her way to an eighth QS win with Bonvalot's form today. However another big result today will help Ado build confidence ahead of her final event of the season in Hawaii where she'll vie for a spot on the CT.
"I made mistakes in the Final on wave selection and position in the lineup which really hurt because with that tide the best waves were definitely at the start," Ado analyzed. "I didn't quite surf my best all week and still managed to make the Final so I'm really happy. My mind has already been in Hawaii since the end of the France event cause that's my main focus. There are so many surfers that can move up with a result there so it's going to be really exciting."
Rankings Update Post - Azores
European Men's QS Top 5:
1 - Maxime Huscenot (FRA)
2 - Tristan Guilbaud (FRA)
3 - Timothee Bisso (FRA)
4 - Charly Martin (FRA)
4 - Jorgann Couzinet (FRA)
4 - Justin Becret (FRA)
4 - Patrick Langdon-Dark (GBR)
European Women's QS Top 5:
1 - Teresa Bonvalot (PRT)
2 - Pauline Ado (FRA)
3 - Rachel Presti (DEU)
3 - Mafalda Lopes (PRT)
5 - Janire Gonzalez Etxabarri (ESP)
5 - Francisca Veselko (PRT)
5 - Garazi Sanchez-Ortun (EUK)
5 - Maud Le Car (FRA)
Up next for the best European surfers is the final Challenger Series event at Haleiwa, Hawaii from November 26 - December 7, 2021. The European Qualifying Series will continue early next year with the potential return to Netanya, Israel as soon as January.