- WSL / Kevin Moncayo

The latest crop of Brazilian surfers dominated on Day 1 of the inaugural World Surf League (WSL) Men's and Women's QS 1000 Copa Sails of Change on the exotic Galapagos Islands, off the coast of Ecuador. On Thursday, offshore winds, crystal clear water and perfect 3-4 foot waves peeled down the line at Tongo Reef as competition finished off the opening rounds of the Men's division.

Local Ecuadorian athletes populated the initial Round of 48, which included Roberto Rodriguez (ECU), who was the standout surfer of the round. As competition transitioned into the Round of 32, a more international group of athletes hit the lineup, including Olympic athletes Miguel Tudela (PER) and Manuel Selman (CHL), as well as young Brazilians Rodrigo Saldanha (BRA) and Kayan Medeiros (BRA) who brought fireworks to the first-ever WSL event held on the Galapagos Islands.

Roberto Rodriguez Roberto Rodriguez (ECU) at Tongo Reef. - WSL / Kevin Moncayo

The world-class waves at Tongo Reef were confirmed in every post heat interview as athlete after athlete claimed that these were the best waves they ever surfed at a WSL Qualifying Series event. Luckily, the forecast looks to remain with similar conditions throughout the event window.

The athletes took advantage of the phenomenal conditions to gradually expand what was possible out of scoring opportunities on each exceptional lefthander. Early standouts included Ryan Kainalo (BRA), Philippe Neves (BRA) and Vitor Ferreira (BRA).

However, it was 17-year-old Rodrigo Saldanha who would score the day's highest totals. He began with a 9.00 from the judges after blasting three explosive backhand maneuvers on a long lefthand set wave. He attacked another left for an additional 7.50, earning a 16.50 heat total.

Rodrigo Saldanha Rodrigo Saldanha (BRA) earned the day's highest scores on Day 1 of the Copa Sails of Change Galápagos. - WSL / Kevin Moncayo

"I'm really stoked to be here, the waves are incredible and it's my first time ever competing at a pointbreak like this," exclaimed Saldanha. "The good sets take a while to come in, but when they do, they're perfect. These are the best waves I've ever competed in. I want to thank everyone back in Brazil supporting me, my sponsors, my family and I'm just so happy to be in such an amazing place."

Another young Brazilian, 18-year-old Kayan Medeiros (BRA), spent a day in goofy-footer heaven, painting the extensive lefthand pointbreak with explosive turns, carves and floaters to advance in first place with a 14.75 heat total.

"It's awesome to be competing here, especially after winning my first heat," said Medeiros. "It's my first time to Galapagos and to Ecuador. The waves here are exceptional with perfect lefts, so I'm just happy to make it through to the next round. It must be incredible to be a local surfer here with these waves and the amazing coastline," commented Medeiros.

Kayan Medeiros Kayan Medeiros (BRA) blasted the lip at Tongo Reef. - WSL / Kevin Moncayo

A call is set for 8:00 a.m. (GMT-6) for the start of the Women's QS 1000 at the Copa Sails of Change Galapagos, Ilha de San Cristóbal. The day will begin with heavy event favorite Dominic Barona (ECU) hitting the water against Wendy Velasquez (ECU) and Mia Barrera (ECU). For more information, visit WorldSurfLeague.com

The World Surf League Men's and Women's QS 1000 Copa Sails of Change Galapagos is presented by the Special Council for the Galapagos Islands and the City of San Cristobál. The event will distribute equal prize money as well as 1000 points valid on the WSL South America rankings. For full results, hi-def photos and daily highlights, visit WorldSurfLeague.com

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