The World Surf League (WSL) Rip Curl Pro Playa Grande QS 1000 finished off in spectacular fashion in Mar del Plata, Argentina. Arena Rodriguez Vargas (PER) earned her inaugural victory on the Qualifying Series (QS) by defeating 15-year-old local surfer Victoria Larreta (ARG) in the Final. In the men's division, an explosive Final saw Nacho Gundesen (ARG) defeat his good friend Mateus Herdy (BRA) to become the first Argentinian to win the Rip Curl Pro Playa Grande in its nine-year history.
Vargas has been on a roll to start the WSL South America 2023/24 season. Last week, Vargas earned a runner-up finish in the Galapagos Islands, being defeated by Dominic Barona (ECU). This week in Argentina, Vargas was the in-form surfer in the women's division and was crowned the event winner on Saturday over Larreta to earn her first victory on the QS.
"I'm so happy to win my first event, especially here in Mar del Plata which is such a special place for me personally. I made my first Final at this event last year, and thankfully I got to win my first event on the QS here too," said Vargas. "The people here are incredible, the waves are amazing and I'm very, very happy. I was able to qualify for the Challenger Series last year, but unfortunately it didn't happen this year, so it's important to do well on the QS rankings this season to get back on to the Challenger and try to qualify for the Championship Tour."
In the women's Final, the entire crowd on the beach was in full support of 15-year-old local surfer Victoria Larreta. In the Semifinals, Larreta defeated veteran surfer Melanie Giunta (PER) by a slim margin of 9.26 to 9.00 in the Argentine's favor. However, she was no match for Vargas, whose explosive backside surfing earned her the highest heat total of the event with a 16.00 (out of a possible 20 points) compared to Larreta's 8.43 total.
"Honestly, I'm really proud to make it to the Final. It's an incredible result and it was completely unexpected," declared Larreta. "I felt super good in the Semis, I got some good waves, but all the girls surf amazingly, so for me, it was an unforgettable feeling to compete at a contest at home and make the Final. It was incredible and I'm ecstatic."
The QS events on the WSL South America calendar will determine the top 3 women in the rankings that will qualify for the 2023 WSL Challenger Series, the only pathway to the WSL Championship Tour (CT). With her win today, Vargas has taken a commanding lead on the regional rankings.
In the men's Final, Gundesen got off to a quick start against his good friend Herdy by attacking a lefthander with explosive frontside snaps to earn a 7.67 on his first completed wave. Herdy also earned a good score on a left for a 6-point ride. Gundesen followed immediately on a set wave, executing three consecutive turns on his forehand to reach the excellent range with an 8.17 (out of a possible 10 points).
Herdy then switched strategies, looking for ramps at the jetty waves of Biologia to display his aerial prowess. The Brazilian hunted the line-up, speeding down the waves and taking to the air, landing two big full-rotation airs to earn a 7.87 and a 7.57, coming up just short of the score for a final of 15.84 to 15.44 for the Argentinian. Herdy, who is staying at Gundesen's house, chaired up his friend in front of the passionate Argentinian fans in Mar del Plata.
"I'm so happy to be the first Argentinian to win this contest. We've been waiting for so long for this moment to finally happen, so I'm over the moon in terms of happiness. Vamo Argentina," exclaimed Gundesen after his first victory on the Qualifying Series. "I can't even believe it, it's always been a dream of mine to win here, where my friends and family live. Competing in the Final against Mateus made it even more special because he's such a good friend. What I'm feeling right now is very unique and honestly, I'm very happy. Thank you to everyone on the beach and to everyone that watched online and was cheering for me," concluded Gundesen.
PERFECT 10-POINT RIDE
In the Semifinals against Martin Ottado (URY), Herdy was able to score a perfect 10-point ride on a huge, lofty alley-oop on a righthander at Biologia. It was the first perfect 10 in the history of the Rip Curl Pro Playa Grande, as well as the first 10-point ride of the WSL South America 2023/24 season.
"The waves have been great today with barrels, turn sections and with the wind, perfect for doing airs. It's been a really fun week," said Herdy. "I was a little bit nervous in the Semis because I had lost in that round the last time I competed here. But the waves were pumping and that air was incredible. Everything was perfect and so was the score."
The next stop on the WSL South America calendar is the Punta Rocas Open Pro QS 1000 in Punta Negra, Peru with an event window from April 13 - 16. Watch LIVE on WorldSurfLeague.com
The Rip Curl Pro Playa Grande is brought to you by Biologia Club and sanctioned by the World Surf League as the second event of the WSL South America 2023/2024 season. The Rip Curl Pro Playa Grande is sponsored by Rip Curl, Corona, McDonalds, Monster Energy, ENARD - Ente Nacional de Alto Rendimiento Deportivo, the City of Mar del Plata, the Sports Secretary of Argentina, Argentina Surf Association.