Keala Tomoda-Bannert (HAW) emerged victorious at the World Surf League (WSL) U.S. Air Force Super Girl Surf Pro, a North America and Hawaii/Tahiti co-sanctioned Qualifying Series (QS) 3,000, after an incredible run through Finasl Day.
A building nor’easter provided big moments that Tomoda-Bannert was able to capitalize and surge through Finals Day atop the podium after besting Nora Liotta (HAW) in all-Hawaii Final.
With her result, Tomoda-Bannert claimed the 2023/2024 Hawaii/Tahiti Nui QS Regional title and, for Liotta, the Maui competitor currently sits at No. 3 and is in a qualification spot for the 2024 Challenger Series heading into the final event of the season.
Pictured: (L to R) Nora Liotta (HAW) and Keala Tomoda-Bannert (HAW) made it an all-Hawaii Final in Jacksonville Beach. Credit: © WSL / Scott
Tomoda-Bannert’s form through Finals Day was undeniable and kickstarted the Final over Liotta with an excellent 8.00 (out of a possible 10) within the first five minutes. Liotta was able to answer with a 5.67 of her own to stay within grasp of Tomoda-Bannert, who accrued a 12.67 heat total at the 25-minute mark. But, Tomoda-Bannert wasn’t done and found a near-perfect 9.00 for the event’s highest heat total, a 17.00 (out of a possible 20). Tomoda-Bannert’s performance was insurmountable for Liotta as time expired and Tomoda-Bannert claimed her maiden Super Girl Pro cape. "I finally did it, I'm just beyond stoked right now and to have my best friend right here with me I couldn't have waited for a more perfect time," said Tomoda-Bannert. "This year I just wanted to be number one in the Hawaii region and I guess I achieved that so I'm stoked. [For all the girls] I think just keep on doing it. There's a lot of failure that comes with it, when you keep on going, you finally get it."
Tomoda-Bannert looked unstoppable on Finals Day, overpowering perennial North America threat Leilani McGonagle (CRC) in the Round of 16 and continuing her strong form against new North America No. 1 Zoe Benedetto (USA) in a Quarterfinal clash. A rematch of the 2018 World Junior Championships unfolded between Tomoda-Bannert and Kirra Pinkerton (USA) in the Semifinals with Tomoda-Bannert getting one back on Pinkerton. The Kauaian's 9.00 was also a Finals Day best, earning her the U.S. Air Force Take Flight award.
Tomoda-Bannert holds firm at No. 1 heading into the final event of the Hawaii/Tahiti Nui season and clinched the 2023/2024 Hawaii/Tahiti Nui QS Regional title with her result in Jacksonville Beach.
Liotta entered the U.S. Air Force Super Girl Surf Pro fresh off a win in Sunset Beach and continued that momentum straight into another Semifinal appearance. The Maui competitor, Liotta, took on Florida’s own Kylie Pulcini (USA) in the Round of 16 before facing Jacksonville Beach’s hometown hero Lanea Mons (USA) in their Quarterfinal clash. Liotta then had to overcome Finals Day threat Eweleiula Wong (HAW) before challenging Tomoda-Bannert in the Final.
Liotta now prepares to hold her spot within 2024 Challenger Series qualification heading into the final event of the season at Haleiwa.
"This is so exciting and I defintely couldn't envision back-to-back Finals just with some of the seasons I've had and a lot of losses," said Liotta. "It's a lot of learning and I'm realy grateful. I always imagined doing these things and it's really surrel to be doing what I've seen myself doing. I'm really excited for the Haleiwa contest and hopefully there's waves because I love that wave so much."
Noteworthy Finishes for Kirra Pinkerton and Eweleiula Wong Strengthen 2024 Challenger Series Qualification Hopes
Pinkerton began her Finals Day surge with a dynamic showing against 2023 Challenger Series standout, Bella Kenworthy (USA), in their Round of 16 bout before taking down young phenom, recent Saquarema Corona Pro winner, Erin Brooks (CAN) in Quarterfinal battle. However, an in-form Tomoda-Bannert overtook Pinkerton in their Semifinal clash. This marks Pinkerton's second Semifinal appearance of the 2023/2024 season and moves to No. 2 on the North America rankings.
Wong accrued the day’s highest, single-wave scores throughout the day, earning an 8.33 in the Round of 16 against Vela Mattive (USA) and then another excellent 8.50 in the Quarterfinals over former Championship Tour (CT) competitor Chelsea Tuach (BRB). But, fellow Hawaii/Tahiti Nui standout, Liotta, put a stop to Wong's dream run as she now looks to secure her place among Challenger Series qualifiers.
The North America contingent now prepare for the O'Neill Cold Water Classic beginning November 15 - 19.
The Hawaii/Tahiti Nui women head into their final event of the 2023/2024 season at The Hawaiian Islands HIC Haleiwa Pro beginning November 26 - December 7.
North America Women’s QS Rankings:
1. Zoe Benedetto (USA)
2. Sawyer Lindblad (USA)
3. Kirra Pinkerton (USA)
4. Bella Kenworthy (USA)
5. Talia Swindal (USA)
Hawaii/Tahiti Nui Women’s QS Rankings:
1. Keala Tomoda-Bannert (HAW)
2. Nora Liotta (HAW)
3. Eweleiula Wong (HAW)
4. Erin Brooks (HAW)
5. Zoe McDougall (HAW)
U.S. Air Force Super Girl Surf Pro Final Results:
1 - Keala Tomoda-Bannert (HAW) 17.00 3,000 points
2 - Nora Liotta (HAW) 10.77 2,340 points
U.S. Air Force Super Girl Surf Pro Semifinal Results:
HEAT 1: Keala Tomoda-Bannert (HAW) 13.94 DEF. Kirra Pinkerton (USA) 7.83
HEAT 2: Nora Liotta (HAW) 11.77 DEF. Eweleiula Wong (HAW) 10.26
U.S. Air Force Super Girl Surf Pro Quarterfinal Results:
HEAT 1: Kirra Pinkerton (USA) 11.50 DEF. Erin Brooks (CAN) 8.34
HEAT 2: Keala Tomoda-Bannert (HAW) 13.43 DEF. Zoe Benedetto (USA) 11.70
HEAT 3: Eweleiula Wong (HAW) 14.17 DEF. Chelsea Tuach (BRB) 11.00
HEAT 4: Nora Liotta (HAW) 12.66 DEF. Lanea Mons (USA) 6.67
U.S. Air Force Super Girl Surf Pro Round of 16 Results:
HEAT 1: Kirra Pinkerton (USA) 14.94 DEF. Bella Kenworthy (USA) 11.67
HEAT 2: Erin Brooks (CAN) 11.73 DEF. Kohai Fierro (PYF) 10.66
HEAT 3: Keala Tomoda-Bannert (HAW) 12.60 DEF. Leilani McGonagle (CRC) 10.37
HEAT 4: Zoe Benedetto (USA) 9.60 DEF. Mia McLeish (USA) 4.83
HEAT 5: Eweleiula Wong (HAW) 13.67 DEF. Vela Mattive (USA) 7.33
HEAT 6: Chelsea Tuach (BRB) 12.33 DEF. Auburn Hilley (USA) 7.06
HEAT 7: Lanea Mons (USA) 10.07 DEF. Alana Lopez (USA) 6.53
HEAT 8: Nora Liotta (HAW) 14.50 DEF. Kylie Pulcini (USA) 3.64