Kanoa Igarashi and Sage Erickson have won the Pantin Classic Galicia Pro today in solid six-to-eight foot surf. The thick fog that halted yesterday's competition delayed the start of this finals day until 2 p.m. when it finally cleared and let the large set waves show.
A similar scenario to Saturday's start of the women's final saw Sage Erickson and Pauline Ado post under-average scores on single maneuvers as the two surfers tried to navigate a tricky lineup battered by large sets closing out the bay. Ado grabbed hold of the Final's lead on the ten minute mark with another forehand hack on a closeout section. The French surfer continued to build her scoreboard as she found a slightly longer wave, allowing her two good turns for a 6.23.
Both surfers started on a wave with only about a minute remaining, Ado on a long right with a soft face but able to belt four consecutive turns. Erickson had a quicker ride but started with a snap and completed the wave with a radical closeout hack. As time ran out, surfers paddled in, awaiting the judges panel's decision. Ado was awarded an excellent 8.33 to further extend her lead but Erickson's last wave came in as an 8.93 to reverse the situation and seal the deal on her second Pantin Classic Galicia Pro title.
"It's been an incredible final, a lot of big sets were coming in and it was a lot of work, I just had to have faith that the right wave would come and to keep an eye out and not get discouraged," she reflected.
"I can't believe I got that last wave, I just came to shore and fell to my knees thanking god for sending me that. I came up the hill and all those people were cheering like nothing before and that feeling of support just made me cry. I'm so thankful for their support here and all my friends and family at home that watched online and have been texting me it's truly amazing."
The current World No. 9 built momentum through the rounds and culminated with the buzzer-beater win in the final. After winning this event in 2012, Erickson clinches a second title in Pantin and will rocket up eight spots on the Qualifying Series to sit in equal fourth with only a few events remaining this season.
"Over the years I've stopped counting points coming into events, I found that knowing your place is alright but knowing other people's doesn't do any good for keeping the focus on yourself," she continued.
"The goal was to win here and it feels amazing to have done it and to move into the Top 6. You want to be in a guaranteed spot for the World Tour next year and this gets me a little closer to the guarantee. Hopefully I won't need this QS and one of the girls that have been surfing amazingly well will get a spot if I can qualify through the CT."
Another standout this week, Ado surfed a smart final and despite a slow start, the former Top 17 resident was able to build a solid lead over Erickson. If it wasn't for a last-minute effort from the Californian, Ado could have won her first major QS event in Pantin.
"To lose that final in the very last minute and for only a fraction of a point really hurts," she confided. "Sage surfed really well and was one of the best surfers all event so I knew this would be a tough one. It all comes down to small details but right now I'm feeling very disappointed."
Ado belts her best result since 2012 where she placed runner-up to Bianca Buitendag in Azores. She will now move on to this very destination for the upcoming Azores Airlines Pro, ranked ninth on the Qualifying Series, and hoping to add even more ranking points to her season tally before the final home stretch of 2016.
"I have great memories of competing here in Pantin, I often get good results so it's become a special place for me," she continued. "There's more points to clinch with that new QS6,000 in Australia and a couple of QS3,000 which are becoming very important events. I'm super motivated to keep battling until November to try and requalify."
Due to the delayed start of finals day and the uncertain time available before the fog showed up again, event officials resorted to change the event format from man-on-man heats back to four-man heats, leaving only seven matchups instead of 15.
As the tide came in and the swell faded, conditions groomed beautifully to give surfers in the final a perfect blank canvas of four-to-five foot right and left peelers.
Californian Kanoa Igarashi, 18, opened fire first with a good ride on his forehand and a couple of impressive turns for a 7.83 and an early lead. Brazilian Michael Rodrigues (BRA), 21, answered quickly with a short ride on a left to get his feet on the wax. He then opted to go right as well, started with a functional flat spin to go over a white section, built speed and laid into a powerful snap before reaccelerating for a tail-high rotation and an excellent 8.67.
Igarashi continued to surf on the face on the wave, displaying his sharp rail game and variety of power and progressive maneuvers for an 8.60 and the lead again. Meanwhile, fellow Brazilians Tomas Hermes, 29, and Ian Gouveia, 23, caught decent rides but struggled to find a wave with potential for an excellent-range type of score.
Gouveia quickly rectified the situation on a big powerful lefthander allowing him to lock in several turns and a little aerial to finish it off, belting a 7.87 to get back in the race for first place. Hermes finally got his own piece of excellence on the two-minute mark with a 7.97 for three carving gauges on a beautiful right. Time eventually ran out and Igarashi with a comfortable lead took the win.
In his first year among the elite Top 32, Igarashi is hovering over the current requalification bubble in 21st position. This result in Pantin will propel him into the top ranks of the Qualifying Series as a safety net.
"I wouldn't be happy with any other result and I'm stoked this week went my way, I had a really fun event and was enjoying every second of it," he stated. "I have a magic board from Channel Islands that worked in every kind of conditions we got this week, and when you're surrounded by good people too it seems like everything just comes your way. With this win a lot of pressure comes off my back, I'm enjoying the tour so much, the last thing I want is fall off it."
Brazil's Rodrigues was another event standout and unfortunately came just short of finding the necessary score to overtake Igarashi in the Final. The young surfer claims his season's best result and will take a huge leap in the rankings going into the back half of the season.
"This is my second-best result ever on the QS tour and I'm really happy with my surfing this week," he said. "I'm really having an up-and-down kind of year, I've lost early in a couple of events, and on the other hand had a 9th in Ballito and a 2nd place here so I'm not sure what's going on. I'm training a lot and having fun, I'm not too focused on the rankings but enjoying myself and hoping the efforts pay off."
Hermes and Gouveia placed third and fourth respectively and will also take home important ranking points to improve on their season totals towards qualification for the coveted Samsung Galaxy Championship Tour.