Hawaii’s Luana Silva and Ezekiel Lau 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.
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.”
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 materialize.
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)