Kekoa Bacalso claims SriLankan Airlines Pro in pumping Maldives

PASTA POINT, Maldives — Hawai‘i’s Kekoa Bacalso has won the Association of Surfing Professionals World Qualifying Series 6-Star PRIME

SriLankan Airlines Pro in fantastic 4-to-6 foot surf at Pasta Point in the Maldives, Saturday.

In an all-Hawai‘i final, Bacalso defeated Kaua‘i’s Dustin Barca with all their Hawai‘i fellow competitors cheering on both surfers in what has been an event dominated by them. Five Hawai‘i surfers came into the final day of eight surfers from the quarterfinals.

The only way the Hawai‘i surfers were being beaten there was when they drew each other in the draw and eliminated one of their own.

Barca opened the final with an excellent 8.17 point ride out of a possible 10, which included a clean tube ride followed by a series of excellent and precisely executed bottom-to-top turn combinations.

Bacalso threw himself into contention mid-final with a solid 7-point ride while Barca remained patient, holding priority and looking to open a big break with his required second scoring ride.

With 15 minutes remaining in the 35 minute final, Barca took his second ride but the wave let him down slightly and he posted just an average 5.5 score and the door for Bacalso to assert himself was wide open.

Bacalso required just a 6.68 to take the lead and when delivered with a solid set wave, he showed his intentions by not simply going for a score to take the lead (he wanted a score to take a big lead). Throwing caution to the wind and unleashing a series of critical and powerful backhand moves throughout the long perfect peeling 200-meter ride, he was duly rewarded with an outstanding 9-point ride.

With five minutes remaining, Bacalso again was presented with an excellent wave and he again unleashed a series of massive moves to post an 8.87 score, securing his first-ever win in an ASP WQS 6-Star PRIME event.

“So stoked to finally win at ASP WQS level,” Bacalso said. “After winning the ASP World Junior title a few years ago, the pressure’s been on me to perform at WQS level, but it’s been really hard. The competition is so tough and to finally break through is such a relief. The waves have been amazing here and the Hawaiians have ripped every day. It’s a huge party for us here tonight.”

Barca also posted his best ever result and after the final said, “It’s been an amazing event for the Hawaiians. In the final, we just surfed together out there and had a great time in perfect waves. I made a few mistakes mid-heat, but overall, wow, what a great event this has been.”

Both surfers dedicated their performance to the late Tony Hussein Hinde, the surfer who discovered Pasta Point and was an integral part of making this great event happen. Tony passed away just prior to this year’s event.

Finishing in third place was Hawai‘i’s Joel Centeio and Brazil’s Leonardo Neves. Centeio went down in a very close semifinal to Bacalso. Both surfers were level on scores with just five minutes remaining in the semifinal when Bacalso secured his finals berth with another excellent scoring ride.

Neves was both pleased with his overall result, but slightly disappointed not to win the event.

All week, Neves had been amongst the highest scoring surfers each day and held the highest scoring ride of a perfect 10 in his Round of 16 heat, but in the semifinal, he fell on a few earlier critical rides and it wasn’t until mid-heat that he found an excellent 8.17 to throw himself into contention. Holding priority in the final five minutes and requiring a very achievable 7.9 to win, the ocean went quiet on Neves and Barca secured his first ASP WQS 6-Star PRIME finals position.

“We all come here to win but third is still a great result,” Neves said. “I didn’t get the right waves early in that semi and my opponent really took advantage of me in that period. It’s been such an amazing event that we’re all really happy to be here and I will be back next year for sure.”

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