Perfection for finals day at the Gran Canaria Pro-Am. | Photo: APP World Tour
GRAN CANARIA, Spain – With ideal conditions lining up for the final day of competition, the decision was made to move to the high performance venue at El Lloret, just down the boardwalk from the main contest venue, where perfect overhead to double overhead surf was reeling down the line, groomed by light, offshore winds and the promise to build throughout the day: in short, El Loret delivered.
Sean Poynter. | Photo: APP World Tour
The first quarterfinal heat saw USA’s Sean Poynter square off against Luis Diniz from Brazil. As the swell began to pump and excitement built, Luis applied pressure and fought valiantly against Sean’s frontside snaps and powerful drives down the line, but – on this day – was not able to advance. We know we’ll be seeing more of his talented Brazilian next year on the APP World Tour and look forward to watch as he continuously redefines the boundaries of performance SUP Surfing.
Moving through the Quarter Finals heat next was Frenchman Julien Bouyer who surfed an impressively competitive heat against Leonardo Gimenes. Julien’s stoke was unmistakable in moving past the Quarter Finals. His first ever advancement in a major event into the Semis and rightfully so, as his beautifully consistent snaps and driving bottom turns were a showcase to watch in the event.
Poenaiki Raioha. | Photo: APP World Tour
In the most significant Quarter Final match up, Hawaii’s Zane Schweitzer surfed against the rising tide of Tahitian Poenaiki Raioha whose incredible performances kept getting raising heat scores throughout the day. Poenaiki’s spot on wave selection and flawless turns kept turning the tables on Zane to stay in the heat of the battle. Zane, as always, found multiple waves with incredible style, slashing and firing down the line, but missed the opportunity to advance with one big scoring wave. The end result, with a couple of excellent scores, Poenaiki advanced into the Semi Finals.
With Zane dropping out of the competition in the quarterfinals, there was only one man left standing between Sean Poynter and his first World Championship Title, and that was Poenaiki Raioha. However, if Sean advanced on into the finals from his next heat, he would clinch the Title, regardless of what Poenaiki did, so the pressure was still directly on the American and somewhat out of the Tahitian’s hands.
The final heat of the quarterfinals saw a flawless display of performance surfing by the Peruvian, Sebastian Gomez, as he bested the ever impressive Wellington Reis from Brazil advancing through to the semis to face Poenaiki Raioha.
Photo: APP World Tour
The semis pitted Sean Poynter against Julien Bouyer and Ponaiki Raioha vs. Sebastian Gomez as the swell delivered some of the best waves of the day, with perfect green faces and long walls for optimal performance from the World’s very best athletes. The crowds also continued to grow for the final rounds in this ideal natural amphitheater that holds El Loret as its showcase.
Sean Poynter led the charge with an outside set wave against Julien Buoyer. Sean’s performance only grew sharper, with his World Title aspirations on the line – he knew he had to win this heat in order to secure the World Title in 2018, so all the pressure was squarely on him – while Julien Bouyer, already ecstatic with his performance in the Gran Canaria Pro-Am had nothing to lose – a potentially dangerous scenario! But, the ever professional and focused Poynter maintained his composure and delivered an exceptional semi final heat with a couple of excellent scores to secure not only his berth in the prestigious final heat of the Gran Canaria Pro-Am, but his place in history as the 2018 World Champion!
As the announcer counted down the final seconds of the round, the crowd came to its feet to celebrate a fierce waterman who’s chase for a World Title had finally come to realization. As Sean surfed to shore, the dream became real: the APP World Tour had a new 2018 World Surfing Champion in Sean Poynter.
Last in the semis came Poenaiki Raioha vs. Sebastian Gomez, a highly anticipated heat that pit two of the most stylish and flow focused surfers in the world against each other for a critical heat. While any Title aspirations for Poenaiki Raioha were now over, he let it all out and only raised the bar again in response to the heightened competition, as this semi final match up unleashed another level from the French Polynesian.
The Tahitian displayed flawless style on one of the most beautiful waves of the day at El Loret with an impressive display of boldly executed maneuvers as he relentlessly drove down the line. The judges awarded him the competition’s (and the season’s) only perfect 10, pushing him past Gomez who will have to wait for another day to rise to the top, despite a valiant effort to fight back.
Poenaiki Raioha, men’s event winner. | Photos: APP World Tour
The men’s final, perfectly matched between Poynter vs. Raioha, was the grand finale for an incredible day of competition in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. A final display of technical and powerful surfing styles by the two men whose performances have literally changed the way SUP surfing is seen in the Canary Islands. Who can forget the fading light of the day bouncing off the incredible hues of El Loret’s magnificent faces with powerful white water pounding into the rocks? What a moment to be a part of the sport.
Poynter and Raioha traded waves back & forth in the pumping surf, driving wave scores to new levels and excitement to a fever pitch. Both men technically excellent; both men surfing at the top of their game on the perfect stage for the world to witness. Massive turns, explosive snaps, roundhouse cutbacks into the towering white water. Poenaiki and Sean held the crowd’s attention and went blow for blow, as wave after wave each rider was sending it to a new level.
Poenaiki’s bold and aggressive maneuvers were a perfect match to Poynter’s technically defined power and strength. It was a final to remember. As the wave scores rolled in, the lead was changing back and forth continuously in the countdown to the finish. In the end, Poenaiki Raioha, the French Polynesian surfer, whose talented efforts pushed the judges to award him multiple scores in the excellent range, was handed the win with a staggering heat score total of 17.57 compared to 17.40 for Sean Poynter. An incredible, competitive moment for the sport of Stand Up Paddling that will not be forgotten, as history was made this year at the Gran Canaria Pro-Am.
What a day it was for Sean who thanked his sponsors, coach Ian Cairns, family, friends and more. Sean’s run for a World Title began in 2010. He has been held off by coming in second multiple times and once third. Today was a day to become champion, in every sense of the word and it was an emotional moment for the worthy Champion.
Men’s Podium. | Photo: APP World Tour
Slashing top turns, bold snaps and even bigger risks saw the women’s competition heat up for Sunday’s Final Rounds of the APP World Tour here in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. From the Quarter Finals through the final heats, the women on the APP World Tour represented the top action in the world of SUP. And, on this day, did they deliver!
In the Quarter Final rounds we saw the field narrow as Iballa Moreno super-ceded young Alazne Alonso in a dominant heat. Iballa’s intent was clear as she made singular use of every wave to maximize her scores in a run for the top. Alonso’s surfing was strong but no match for the World Title contender in her home waters surrounded by her fans, family and spectators all eager to see the Canary Island native bring home a World Championship title.
Vania Olivieri Torres matched up with Candice Appleby for a searing quarter final heat which saw both women finding multiple rides to increase their overall heat scores. Torres managed to find the better waves and scored with her high energy turns and incredible consistency down the line executing multiple maneuvers for the judges with technical skill and performance.
L: Nicole Pacelli, R: Vania Torres, Bottom: Iballa Moreno. | Photos: APP World Tour
In Heat 3, Izzi Gomez turned on the power against Gabriela Sztamfater from Brazil. As the swell built in both power and size, the Californian found her comfort zone with powerful hooks off the top and dramatic cut backs to stay within the waves power zone. Izzi rose to her full performance value throughout Sunday’s competition and the quarter final rounds proved to be her warm up for a massive event.
Last on the docket for the quarter finals was a great match up between Australia’s Shakira Westdorp and Brazil’s Nicole Pacelli. Shakira, a good friend to Iballa Moreno, had it in her power to hand her friend the World Championship Title if she were able to dominate the exceedingly talented Pacelli and knock her from the competition. Shakira’s focus was absolute and when this young Aussie is on her top performance, she is close to unbeatable.
Pacelli’s strong presence has been felt throughout the APP World Tour with her second place finish in New York and her slashing top turns in Gran Canaria. Shakira was able to overcome Pacelli after a heated battle to surf in to a big battle hug from Iballa Moreno who had just won her first ever World SUP Surfing title.
Shakira putting on a show for Izzi. | Photo: APP World Tour
Moving into the semi final rounds, the surf at El Lloret reached a point of near perfection. The swell filled in and the waves were firing at six to eight feet with an occasional 10 footer. The crowds multiplied as the action intensified and brought them to their feet: the ideal stage for this World Championship Tour Finals, where the local favorite had just clinched the World Title in front of her home crowd.
Semi Final Heat 1 matched Iballa Moreno with Vania Olivieri Torres. Iballa had won her World Title and now, in seeking a win for the Gran Canaria ProAm, unleashed a new level of power. In a display of hometown courage, Iballa sought shelter under the lip in an 8 footer, almost claiming the first barrel of the event. The crowd rewarded this 2018 windsurf & SUP champ with loud, expressive cheers for the native girl’s efforts. Vania fought back, but was no match for a champ on a roll and the heat ended in Iballa’s favor 12.5/ 6.9.
The day’s second semi final heat saw a great confrontation between Shakira Westdorp and Izzi Gomez. As both women recall it, they were cheering each other on and calling one another into massive waves in what became an elite expression session for both athletes. Shakira, charging hard as always, found a powerful drive on one wave and executed her stylish cutbacks and top turns with usual precision; however, Izzi was lighting the wick of a whole new level of performance scoring an 8.33 ride as well as several others was able to take the win.
Izzi Gomez, going big. | Photo: APP World Tour
The Final Round for the Women held every bit of style, power and performance as the Men’s in a true testament to the rise of the female side of stand up paddle surfing. Celebrating these great athletes for their commitment, drive and talent is what the APP World Tour is all about.
Izzi & Iballa, in a final showdown, did not disappoint the crowds and spectators that had come to watch. Iballa’s strong skills and radical moves in the surf all day, showcased her courage and confidence as well as massive talent is the criteria for any World Champion. However, Izzi Gomez, who is no stranger to large surf and a progressive, powerful competitor had been upping the ante on her scores all day long and would not let Iballa go lightly. It was a great 30 minutes of sport.
Wave after wave the women traded places at the top of the leaderboard, each driving big to increase scores and please the judges. Izzi’s wicked snaps off the lip followed by those roundhouse cutbacks were blazing with talent. Iballa answered every move with her own innovative style and technical skill, making it near impossible to predict the winner outcome.
Iballa and Izzi congratulating each other after an epic final. | Photo: APP World Tour.
As the clock ticked down, Izzi found a perfect set and scored a 9.5 – the highest wave score awarded for the women in the entire competition – for her dominant forehand powerhouse snaps to put her in the lead. Iballa dug deep, but just could not find the wave she would need to overcome Izzi’s impressive scoreline ending the heat and the competition with Izzi on top with a heat score total of 16.07 to Iballa’s 14.16.
Izzi Gomez wins the Gran Canaria ProAm, Iballa Moreno takes home the World Championship title. Both women are a testament to the sport and the future it brings. For full event results, end of year Rankings, broadcast replays, photos and miuch more go to appworldtour.com and @appworldtour
Women’s Podium. | Photo: APP World Tour
About the APP World Tour and Waterman League International
The APP World Tour is the Professional World Championship Tour for the Sport of Paddlesurfing (also known as SUP / Stand Up Paddling / Paddleboarding), officially sanctioned by the IOC recognized Federation for Surfing Sports, the ISA (International Surfing Association). Re-branded in 2017 as the APP World Tour (previously known as the Stand Up World Tour and Series) the APP has been crowning the sport’s World Champions for both Men & Women across Racing and Surfing since 2010.