Following an impeccable return of WSL events to Brazil, the LayBack Pro presented by Billabong finished off in incredible fashion with the 15-year-old local surfer Laura Raupp (BRA) defeating Melanie Giunta (PER) in the Women's QS1000 and saw 19-year-old Eduardo Motta (BRA) best Michael Rodrigues (BRA) in the Men's QS3000 in front of an immense crowd at Praia Mole, in Florianópolis, Brazil.
"This is so incredible, I'm so happy that I don't know what to say, I'm speechless," were the first words out of Raupp's mouth after being chaired up the beach in front of her hometown crowd. "Conditions weren't easy, but we had plenty of waves throughout the week. I even blew out my tail on a set wave after trying to hit the lip as hard as I could. But the crowd today was remarkable. This was my first QS event ever and I won, so this will always be with me. Now it's time to reset and get ready for the next event in Saquarema and try for another good result there," said Raupp.
The Women's QS1000 Final was the first to hit the water at the LayBack Pro presented by Billabong on Sunday with waves in the 4-6 foot range (1.5 - 2 meters) under a pristine sunny sky. Due to strong currents and heavy conditions, jet ski assist was put into play.
After a slow start, Giunta, who won a QS event in Santa Catarina in 2018, took an early lead, but quickly relinquished it after Raupp found a steep righthander and threw a series of frontside snaps. Raupp and Giunta continued to go blow-for-blow earning mid-range scores from the judges. But it was the young Brazilian that came out victorious by a score of 11.20 to 10.74 after the final horn sounded.
"Although it was my first Qualifying Series event, I came here with a focus on doing my best and I was able to accomplish that. I truly believe in my surfing and I came here to show what I could do. The event was unbelievable and I just want to thank everyone that's been showing their support, my sponsors and especially to my parents that have always been there for me. There's nothing better than competing and winning my first QS event at home that was run by my sponsor LayBack," concluded Raupp.
To put things into perspective, Raupp was able to repeat the incredible feat carried out 12 years ago at Praia Mole in 2009, when a 15-year-old Gabriel Medina (BRA) became the youngest surfer ever to win a Qualifying Series event. Medina is the reigning 3-time WSL World Champion, leaving a dominant career path for Raupp to follow.
In the Men's QS3000, youth once again played a role in the outcome. In the Semifinals, Motta was able to defeat the #1 seeded surfer of the event, the talented Championship Tour surfer Yago Dora (BRA). Then topped it off by taking out another local surfer and former CT athlete, Michael Rodrigues (BRA), who has been living in Floripa for the past ten years.
As the moderate winds picked up throughout the day, conditions became more difficult in the early afternoon with longer lulls despite the powerful sets that marched through the Praia Mole lineup. In another Final decided by mid-range scores, Motta defeated Rodrigues by a final score of 11.74 to 10.50 respectively.
"I literally have no words to describe what I'm feeling right now, it's just extreme happiness. I've put in so much hard work and dedication to get here and thankfully today was my day," said an emotional Motta. "But I know there's still a lot of work to be done, so I'm going to celebrate today, but I'll keep my feet on the ground for the next upcoming events. I knew all the heats were going to be difficult today. All the athletes here have the same objective, so I'm stoked to have beat so many talented surfers. I didn't come here as one of the event favorites and I knew the odds were against me, but sometimes that's a good thing. I just feel blessed to have won and I hope more victories are on the way."
Upon completion of the first event of the 2021-2022 WSL Latin America regional rankings which will determine qualification for the WSL Challenger Series, Motta sits in 1st place with 3,000 points with his victory, while Laura Raupp is in the lead with 1,000 points. The event runner-ups Rodrigues and Giunta are in 2nd with 2,400 and 800 points respectively.
The LayBack Pro presented by Billabong is brought to you by the Santa Catarina Surf Federation (FECASURF) and the Agência Esporte Arte (AEA) and is a WSL Qualifying Series licensed by WSL Latin America. The event is sponsored by Corona and GND Incorporadora with support from the City of Florianópolis, through the Department of Culture, Sports and Leisure, the Municipal Sports Foundation, Hotel Selina Floripa, the Praia Mole Surf Association (ASPM) and the surf news/forecast website Waves. The event is being streamed live on WorldSurfLeague.com and the free WSL app.