Tati realizes world tour dream with clutch victory in Brazil

Not leaving anything to chance, Tatiana Weston-Webb will be a part of the 2015 women’s World Championship Tour after winning the Mahalo Eco Surf Festival in Itacare, Brazil, last weekend. It came down to the final heat with the two surfers who needed it most and the odds were in Tati’s favor as she knocked off Oahu’s Alessa Quizon, who was also battling for a spot on next year’s WCT.

The victory at the 4-Star World Qualifying Series event gave Tati 1,000 rankings points. Her five best WQS finishes on the season give her a total of 8,720 points, which is good for sixth place on the WQS leaderboard. The top six are all guaranteed a spot on next year’s WCT, so Tati will be joining Malia Manuel as Kauai’s two competitors on the 2015 world tour.

It’s been a big year for the 18-year-old, who had already been established as perhaps the best women’s junior in the world. She got a chance to prove she could hang with the pros at three World Championship Tour events as a replacement for the injured Courtney Conlogue. She reached the third round in all three, taking Equal Ninth each time.

There were many fine moments throughout her WQS campaign and while this final event was just a 4-Star, it may have been the most consequential. In the quarterfinals, Tati took on WQS points leader Silvana Lima, who has dominated most of the season and was now competing in front of her home crowd. Lima had nothing to lose, but with Quizon still alive, Tati needed to keep advancing to assure her spot in the rankings.

Tati had things well in hand from the early going and an interference call on the veteran Lima decided the result before the final horn needed sounding. With a 13.25 total after her first two waves, Tati’s spot in the semifinals was secure and she would be taking on another Brazilian in Jacqueline Silva. There was no interference this time, but a similar result. She took control from the start and while both were active, all of Tati’s waves were in the four-, five- and six-point range. Silva’s top two were for just a 6.50 total, well short of Tati’s 13.15 winning mark.

Quizon had a very close semifinal heat with Brazilian Suelen Naraisa, but the WCT rookie kept her dream of a second straight year on the world tour alive with a narrow 9.15 to 8.00 victory. That set up the deciding final heat.

Coming into the event, Quizon sat in seventh place in the WQS rankings, one spot behind Tati. Quizon is in 15th for the season on the WCT rankings with just the top 10 earning an invite back on tour. So the best way for her re-qualify would be to leap frog Tati and use her WQS standing, which is how she qualified last season. But even without doing so, she still may be okay, depending on Laura Enever. The Aussie has her spot locked up with her WQS ranking but if she holds on to 10th in the WCT rankings, Quizon would then bump up into the top six. Yet if Dimity Stoyle, who trails Enever by just 600 rankings points, passes her at the final WCT event, then Quizon would sit outside the top six.

It was a familiar start in the final with Tati picking up the best wave of the heat on her first go, earning a 7.75 from the judges. She later backed it up with a 6.95 for a 14.70 two-wave total and the heat lead. But Quizon was still very much alive after earning a 6.75 on her first wave. She needed a 7.85 to jump back in front and made things interesting on her final wave, but the 6.85 came up just short.

Even without knowing the ultimate 16 qualifiers, there is still a chance that Quizon gets a spot on the 2015 WCT via a wild card. She battled injuries much of the season and the fact that her WQS ranking has gotten her so close to a second straight year on tour could make that a viable decision.

What we know for sure is that there will be at least four Hawaii surfers on next year’s elite circuit — Manuel, Weston-Webb, defending world champ Carissa Moore and Coco Ho, who will re-qualify with a second-place finish on the WQS rankings.

But before we jump to next season, this year’s women’s world champ will be decided at the Target Maui Pro (Nov. 22 to Dec. 6). Australia’s Stephanie Gilmore is going for her sixth world title and will clinch if she can reach the final, though two fellow Aussies are still hoping to knock her off track. Sally Fitzgibbons can overtake Gilmore if she wins the event and Gilmore does not reach the semifinals. A win for Fitzgibbons and an Equal Third for Gilmore will have them tied and needing a surf-off. Tyler Wright can also get to a surf-off if she wins the event and Gilmore does not reach the semifinals.

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David Simon can be reached at dsimon@thegardenisland.com.

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