Clean Sweep for Hawaii at the MEO Vissla Pro Ericeira
RIBEIRA D’ILHAS, Ericeira / Portugal (Saturday, October 9, 2021) - Luana Silva (HAW) and Ezekiel Lau (HAW) have won the MEO Vissla Pro Ericeira today, claiming victory in the Final bouts against Gabriela Bryan (HAW) and Jackson Baker (AUS) respectively, held in good three-to-four foot surf at the iconic Ribeira d’Ilhas pointbreak.
Stop No.2 of 4 on the 2021 Challenger Series, the MEO Vissla Pro Ericeira has been treated to epic conditions all week with a couple of massive days before the conclusion of the event in rippable conditions today.
Women’s Final: All Hawaiian Battle Finishes in Epic Buzzer-Beater Fashion
The women’s Final brought incredible fireworks right from the get-go with Gabriela Bryan (HAW) and Luana Silva (HAW) finding great waves and tearing them apart with the power and progression they have been displaying all week.
Ten minutes in they were both sitting on huge heat totals, 17.13 for Bryan, 16.13 for Silva. It was heartbreaking to watch the next 20 minutes as Silva with a near-perfect 9.80 on the board struggled to find any opportunity in the lineup.
With 15 seconds on the clock, a wave finally materialized and the young surfer went to town on it, showing no signs of pressure whatsoever, to post an excellent 8.23 and seal the biggest victory of her young career. The result rocketed her up to third on the rankings.
“I have no words right now I’m so happy,” an ecstatic Silva mumbled in tears. “I knew it was going to be tough that Final against Gabriela, but I just waited and finally got my chance. I’m stoked I managed to showcase my surfing.”
Gabriela Bryan (HAW) cemented her massive lead on the Challenger Series with a second, back-to-back runner-up finish after the US Open. The powerful regular footer was 15 seconds away from clinching that first major win and though the final result must be hurting right now, her incredible rampage through all the rounds this week will be a massive confidence boost, proving her surfing belongs at the very highest level in all types of conditions.
“I surfed the best I could and I’m really happy with this,” Bryan said. “That last wave came to her and there’s nothing I could have done unfortunately. I’m going to give myself a chance in France now and I’m really proud of myself for being consistent.”
Men’s Final: Ezekiel Lau Caps Off Massive Week with Victory in Portugal
Coming off a decent start at the US Open with a 9th place finish, Ezekiel Lau (HAW) clearly stepped up his game this week, consistently posting some of the biggest scores ever since his very close call in Round 2. The Hawaiian never looked back and just blazed through the field on his way to a third win at the Challenger Series level (previously QS10,000).
Lau jumped from 34th to 1st on the Challenger Series rankings, in a very strong position heading into the back half of the season.
“Falling off tour a couple of years ago I’ve been working so hard ever since to just get back and winning here feels amazing,” Lau said. “I knew this was going to be a good event for me so I focused in on it. I trained long and hard for it so I’m just really stoked and just want to thank everyone that has helped me get to this point.”
In the Final, Lau wasted no time soaking in the amazing scenery at Ribeira but rather got busy early on to post two excellent (8+) scores in the opening ten minutes of the Final. Baker’s opening ride came in slightly below and the Australian sat patiently in the lineup with priority waiting for the right wave.
The following exchanges unfortunately never really offered much in terms of potential as Lau’s combination of two scores were a major hurdle in Baker’s path and the waves didn’t materialise.
Merewether’s Jackson Baker (AUS) was nowhere to be seen on the rankings after a poor first event in California, but the powerful regular foot found his groove on the Portuguese waves and posted his career-best performance so far. Spirits lifted by the whole Aussie posse, Baker’s exuberant turns and claims fired up the crowds all the way into the Final.
“When I first came in I was definitely a bit upset but overall I’m over the moon with this whole event,” Baker said. “It’ll slowly start sinking in and I’ll look at all the positives!”
Baker jumped from 65th on the Challenger Series rankings all the way up to 7th and is now a legitimate bet in the qualifying conversation.
In the opening men’s Semifinal, a clash between overall standouts this week proved extra entertaining as Lau and Nat Young (USA) went blow for blow. Eventually though, the Californian came up short despite a solid 15.67 heat total, and placed equal 3rd. A big result for Young that will propel him 14 spots on the rankings into 4th position midway through the season.
An unfamiliar sight in Semifinal 2 of the men’s was Imaikalani Devault (HAW)’s off rhythm. The Hawaiian who previously posted the event’s biggest scores just did not catch the right waves and couldn’t perform his usual progressive and aggressive maneuvers. However another big result for the Maui local will see him move into 3rd position on the rankings with a strong chance of backing it up in the remaining two events.
The women’s Semis were a little more obvious in that two of the most dominant surfers all week just kept their composure and the two underdogs Pauline Ado (FRA) and Ariane Ochoa (EUK) struggled to find the same excellent rhythm that carried them all the way into a 3rd place finish.
Nonetheless the two best Europeans in the event capitalized big time on surfing in familiar territory moving up to 4th and equal 5th respectively with one more stop on home soil coming up next week.
Rankings Update Post - MEO Vissla Pro Ericeira
The Challenger Series leaders after the US Open mostly didn’t fare well in Portugal and that opened the door to many lower ranked athletes to swoop in and move into virtual qualification zone. See the new rankings Men’s Top 12 and Women’s Top 6:
Men’s Challenger Series Top 12:
1 - Ezekiel Lau (HAW)
2 - Jake Marshall (USA)
3 - Imaikalani Devault (HAW)
4 - Nat Young (USA)
5 - Griffin Colapinto (USA)
6 - Liam O'Brien (AUS)
7 - Jackson Baker (AUS)
8 - Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA)
9 - Kanoa Igarashi (JPN)
10 - Callum Robson (AUS)
11 - Shun Murakami (JPN)
12 - Cole Houshmand (USA)
Women’s Challenger Series Top 6:
1 - Gabriela Bryan (HAW)
2 - Brisa Hennessy (CRI)
3 - Luana Silva (HAW)
4 - Pauline Ado (FRA)
5 - Caitlin Simmers (USA)
6 - Ariane Ochoa (EUK)
The next event on the 2021 Challenger Series will be the Quiksilver and ROXY Pro France, held at ‘Les Culs Nus’ beach from October 16-24, 2021