Zeke Lau And Luana Silva Win Big For Hawaii In Portugal
If Zeke qualifies through the QS, does The Ultimate Surfer wildcard go to Koa Smith?
Hawaii’s Ezekiel Lau and Luana Silva are your MEO Vissla Pro Ericeira champions.
The prize Zeke Lau won for the Ultimate Surfer was $100,000 USD and 3 wildcard spots on the 2022 CT. Given it was first and foremost a reality TV show featuring mostly B and C-grade surfers, it was an uncanny pathway for CT qualification with dubious legitimacy.
Zeke has now silenced those questioning his right to be on tour next season following his win in Portugal. He now leads the Challenger Series rankings with two events to go. What will the WSL do with his 3 wildcards from TUS if he does qualify through the CS? We’re poking around. Answers to come soon.
A quick note on the contest: Hawaii dominated in Portugal. Both female finalists, Gabriela Bryan and Luana Silva, and Zeke Lau come from the Hawaiian Islands. In clean three-to-five foot waves of the iconic righthand pointbreak, Ribeira d’Ilhas, the Hawaiian’s put on a powerful display of surfing that saw them steamroll through the competition’s early rounds. Also, Betty-Lou Sakura Johnson, my lord. A 16-year old from the North Shore with power rivaling Riss Moore. She bowed out in the Quarter-finals, but she looks almost certain to make the tour soon. Exciting.
Multiple excellent heats happened on finals day, the women’s final saw heat totals of 18.03 and 17.13 from Luana and Gabriela, respectively. On the men’s side, Zeke fetched a total of 16.57 to topple Merewether bootstrapper, Jackson Baker whose Hoy-Esque rail game and power is wonderful.
Here’s how finals day went down:
Zeke came into Portugal following a 9th place finish at The US Open of Surfing at Huntington. In his semi-final he drew an in-form Nat Young. Both are former CT surfers who have competed against each other since their amateur days. In the end, Zeke handled Young with a 9.17 and an 8.23 to set up the final with Jacko.
“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,” said Zeke. “I knew this was going to be a good event for me, so I focused 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.”
Lau jumped from 34th to 1st on the CS rankings and is in a very strong position heading into the back half of the season.
Merewether’s Baker was 65th on the CS coming into this event. He has now jumped 58 spots to #7 with two events remaining. Could we be seeing a Morgs-RyCal-Jacko trident on tour next season? Steel city locals are crossing their toes.
The women’s final kicked off like a bullet train, with Gabriela Bryan and Luana Silva both posting excellent scores within the first ten minutes. 17.13 for Bryan, 16.13 for Silva. For the next 20 minutes, Silva, with a near-perfect 9.80 on the board, struggled to find any opportunity in the lineup.
With time ticking away and only 15 seconds on the clock, a wave materialized and Luana, showing no sign of pressure, dug deep for an 8.23 with a series of snaps to seal the biggest victory of her young career. She now sits in third on the CS rankings.
“I have no words right now I’m so happy,” an ecstatic Silva said with tears in her eyes. “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 cemented her massive lead on the Challenger Series with a second, back-to-back runner-up finish after the US Open. “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.”
Numerically speaking, Gabriela is practically a lock for the 2022 Championship Tour.
The next two CS events are: The Quiksilver and Roxy Pro, France (16-24 Oct), and The Haleiwa Challenger (Nov 26-Dec 7).
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