- WSL / Damien Poullenot
Day 7 Highlights - Rip Curl Pro Search Taghazout Bay
Check out highlights from an epic finals day at the Rip Curl Pro Search Taghazout Bay.

Yolanda Hopkins and Kauli Vaast have won the QS 3,000 Rip Curl Pro Search Taghazout Bay today, claiming victory in the Finals against Pauline Ado and Jorgann Couzinet held in three-to-four surf at Anza.

Stop No. 5 of 6 on the 2022-23 European QS, the Rip Curl Pro Search Taghazout Bay has been juggling with an extremely complicated forecast for both the main venue of Anchor Point and the backup of Anza.

Despite being in the heart of the best season for swell and weather, the event was unlucky with very little energy in the ocean for the entire waiting period and inclement weather at times. The event eventually culminated with excellent finals in clean surf, giving everyone a very good reason to come back next year.

Kauli Vaast (FRA) Kauli Vaast (FRA) - WSL / Damien Poullenot

Men's Final: Vaast Claims Career-First QS Win on his Birthday

"I'm super focused this year," Vaast said. "I really want to give it my all and qualify. Winning this QS is just extra motivation for me, and to do it on my birthday is just special.

The all-French affair did not disappoint as Reunion Island's Couzinet took on Tahiti's Vaast in a battle of epic proportions. Both surfers went blow for blow in the running little rights and laid down massive turns and airs to rack up a collection of excellent scores.

Vaast's best number of 8.90 was eventually the deciding factor in his first-ever win on the Qualifying Series, despite Couzinet posting two scores above 8 points, coming up just short on his final efforts.

"I have really good friends from Morocco and they've been telling me to come here for a while," he added. "I'm stoked with my first experience, we had some good waves at the start, and I think I'm actually going to stay a few extra days to score this next swell."

Kauli Vaast (FRA), Taghazout 2023 Kauli Vaast (FRA) - WSL / Damien Poullenot

Turning 21 years old today, the Tahitian has already received many distinctions, among which his runner-up finish as a wildcard in last year's Championship Tour (CT) event at Teahupoo shines brightest. Today he adds a QS win to an impressive resume, set to continue to grow over the coming years.

Couzinet has been a standout in Morocco, posting big numbers in all his previous heats, but eventually had to settle down for runner-up. The 3-time European Champion comes back in full form after a deceiving season on the Challenger Series last year as he continues to fight for the ultimate dream of a CT qualification.

"I felt really good coming here and this result is great for my confidence," Couzinet stated. "I had various issues these past couple of years but I've worked hard to come back stronger and I'm really happy to see it pay off. I feel like I can beat anyone and I can't wait for the next events."

Couzinet and Vaast had previously eliminated Tiago Carrique and Luke Thompson respectively in their Semifinal matchups.

Yolanda Hopkins (POR), Taghazout 2023 Yolanda Hopkins (POR) - WSL / Damien Poullenot

Women's Final: Olympians Battle Goes Hopkins' Way

"It feels amazing to win again," Hopkins said. "It brings back joyful memories of Anglet as well. The Final was a battle but I tried to keep my head straight, keep catching waves and stay calm."

Ado and Hopkins, both regular foot, powerful surfers with loads of experience, including at the inaugural surfing Olympics in Tokyo, took on the rights of Anza with a similar approach. The French surfer got a quick head start and the better of the opening exchange, but Hopkins came back in the fight midway through the heat and claimed back the lead.

A battle of margins, both surfers with scores in the 6-7 range (out of a possible 10), eventually went Hopkins' way as the Portuguese walked away with the win.

"I think this could be my year," she added. "Let's just keep this streak going into the Challengers and hopefully we have another European on the CT next year! I absolutely loved my time here, I found an amazing secret wave and got some proper Moroccan rights, I'll definitely be back!"

Yolanda Hopkins (POR), Taghazout 2023 Yolanda Hopkins (POR) - WSL / Damien Poullenot

Already in the regional rankings lead, courtesy of two wins last summer, Hopkins solidified her pole position with today's victory and will be hard to dethrone with only one event remaining. Her career-fourth win in Taghazout is very likely to transform into a first regional QS title down the line.

Pauline Ado adds another strong result to a solid season with the runner-up finish today. A winner on tour almost every season, her current winless streak is poised to end before the season wraps.

"It came down to very small details so it's always a bit frustrating to get to the final and not go all the way but overall it's a very positive week for me," Ado reflected. "I'm taking a leap in the rankings so my main objective is reached. I always find things to work on, be it technique, or mental game and heat management, this is what keeps the flame burning, and why I'm still as passionate about surfing and competition as ever."

Ado and Hopkins had previously eliminated Carolina Mendes and Francisca Veselko respectively in their Semifinal matchups.

This is ANZA, Backup Venue for the Rip Curl Pro Search Taghazout Bay
Check out the scene at Anza, the backup location of the QS 3,000 Rip Curl Pro Search Taghazout Bay.

With the completion of the Rip Curl Pro Search Taghazout Bay, the race to the European QS title continues, here are the current rankings:

European Men's QS Top 5:

1 - Tiago Carrique (FRA)
2 - Kauli Vaast (FRA)
3 - Gatien Delahaye (FRA)
4 - Jorgann Couzinet (FRA)
5 - Joan Duru (FRA)

European Women's QS Top 5:

1 - Yolanda Hopkins (POR)
2 - Pauline Ado (FRA)
3 - Francisca Veselko (POR)
4 - Carolina Mendes (POR)
5 - Ariane Ochoa (EUK)

The final stop on the 2022-23 European Qualifying Series will take surfers to Caparica, Portugal from April 3-8, 2023.

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