The World Surf League (WSL) Men's and Women's QS 1000 finished with epic performances by Michael Rodrigues (BRA) and Daniella Rosas (PER) at the LayBack Pro presented by Prefeitura de Florianópolis at Praia Mole, on Santa Catarina Island, Brazil.
Local Praia Mole surfer Michael Rodrigues has been on a tear all week long, establishing high-scores and event records at each day of the event. However, Rodrigues saved his best performance for the Final against Alan Jhones (BRA), where he earned an astonishing 19.13 heat total which included a perfect 10-point ride on a huge, tweaked out backside air-reverse on a lefthander which induced a massive outburst and applause from the packed beach.
"This whole week has been kind of surreal. My last victory was in 2014 at Joaquina, the next beach over. It's just impossible to describe what I'm feeling at this moment," said Rodrigues during a poignant interview in front of his hometown crowd. "I've been fighting really hard to be where I am right now and it just seems to all make sense, after all the hard work and dedication, waking up before the sunrise to train and all the other sacrifices I've made. I made the Final last year against Eduardo Motta and this year I had another incredible Final against Alan, who isn't just one of my favorite surfers, but is an idol to the entire northeastern part of Brazil."
Jhones hails from Baía Formosa, the same hometown as the 2019 World Champion and Olympic Gold Medalist Italo Ferreira. Jhones even spent time as a politician and was his son's coach before deciding to return to competitions.
However, the Final was practically a one-sided affair with Rodrigues surfing 13 waves and scoring a 9.13 and a 10-point ride on his two best rides, discarding three additional excellent scores in the 8-point range.
"Honestly, I must confess that it still hasn't hit me yet and I can't believe what I did today," continued Rodrigues. "I surf every day at this beach, I love this place and to win here, in the way it was done, and against someone I admire so much, it's just been incredible. I took no days off and I've been training hard every single day because my goal was not only to make it onto the Challenger Series, but to get there completely prepared. I think this victory was a result of all that intense, hard work," completed Rodrigues.
With his victory at the LayBack Pro, Rodrigues jumped from 6th to 2nd place on the WSL South America regional rankings, right below the 2021/22 Men's WSL Regional Champion, Yago Dora (BRA). With his Finals appearance, Jhones went from 28th to 18th on the rankings.
"Michael knows this wave really well and he has instincts similar to Italo Ferreira, so I knew that it wasn't going to be an easy Final," said Jhones. "I'd feel better if he'd fallen on every wave (laughs), but he's a machine and I'm stoked to have been in the Final with him. Just to make it that far was a win for me, so I'm very happy and ready for the next contest."
In the Women's QS 1000 Final, Daniella Rosas (PER) was matched up against Summer Macedo (BRA), the two in-form surfers of the event. In addition to facing the two-time Regional Champion Rosas, Macedo needed to win the Final to guarantee a spot on the Challenger Series.
Macedo began quickly with two mid-range scores for the lead, but Rosas paddled into a large set wave and blasted three consecutive backside hacks on a left which brought cheers from the fans. After deliberation, the judges provided Rosas with a 9.33, the highest scoring wave of the Women's division at the LayBack Pro.
Macedo continued to fight hard, earning additional mid-range scores, but with Rosas holding priority, she defeated Macedo by a final score of 14.83 to 11.84 respectively.
"I feel great because I've already competed in a lot of contests here in Brazil, but never won one. So, it's an incredible feeling to finally reach the top," said Rosas. "My strategy was to focus on the lefts that were opening up more and I was able to get the highest score of the event there. I'm extremely happy and look forward to the next contest. I felt bad for Summer, who got so close to qualifying for the Challengers, but at the same time, I'm happy that Arena (Rodriguez), another Peruvian, clinched her spot. She's a very talented surfer and we'll be frothing to start the Challenger Series," exclaimed Rosas.
In addition to the event winners, the WSL South America Regional Champions were also crowned at the LayBack Pro at Praia Mole. 16-year-old Sophia Medina (BRA) clinched her maiden title on Friday, while Yago Dora (BRA) claimed his first Regional Title on Sunday, where he raised the trophy in front of his hometown crowd at a packed Praia Mole. Dora, one of the most exciting surfers on the WSL Championship Tour (CT), has yet to compete on the CT this year due to a severe ankle injury prior to the event at Pipeline.
"I've been completely focused on my recovery and until last week, I had no idea that I was in the race for this title," revealed Dora. "I'm incredibly happy because I had a good run making it to the Finals at this event in November and then I won the QS event in Saquarema. So even though I couldn't compete at this event, I was stoked to watch all the action, it was really cool to see everyone ripping. This title is super important because the WSL South America region is one of the most talented in the world, so it's an honor to be taking this trophy home," completed Dora.
The WSL South America representatives on the 2022 WSL Challenger Series are as follows: Alex Ribeiro (BRA), Willian Cardoso (BRA), Eduardo Motta (BRA), Michael Rodrigues BRA), Wesley Leite (BRA), Marco Fernandez (BRA), Raoni Monteiro (BRA), Robson Santos (BRA), Santiago Muniz (ARG) and Matheus Navarro (BRA) in the Men's division and Sophia Medina (BRA), Daniella Rosas (PER), Laura Raupp (BRA) and Arena Rodriguez (PER) in the Women's division.
The LayBack Pro at Praia Mole also carried out several social and environmental activations throughout the week which included event-wide recycling, zero single-use plastic and carbon offsetting. In addition, there was a substantial beach cleanup and environmental education workshops provided by Projeto Route, as well as the Seaflowers initiative for young female surfers led by former pro surfer Marina Werneck.
The LayBack Pro presented by Prefeitura de Florianópolis presents is brought to you by the Santa Catarina Surf Federation (FECASURF), Agência Esporte & Arte (AEA) as co-organizer and is licensed by WSL Latin America as part of the WSL Qualifying Series. The event is sponsored by Metha Energia, with support from BOLD, SIBON Charters, Goedert Group, Hotel Selina, The Search House, the Florianopolis Municipal Sports Foundation and the City of Florianópolis, through the Department of Culture, Sports and Leisure, in addition to the Praia Mole Surf Association (ASPM) and website Waves. The broadcast is produced by FIRMA and can be watched LIVE on WorldSurfLeague.com.