Top Seeds Strike, Event Standouts Shine at Cabarete Pro presented by Surf and Wind City Cabarete
Some of North America's best made their World Surf League (WSL) Cabarete Pro presented by Surf and Wind City Cabarete, a men’s Qualifying Series (QS) 3,000, debuts as a looming storm set the backdrop in three-to-five foot swell on offer.
Men’s Round of 64, Heats 1 – 6, were completed before impending weather forced event organizers to call the event OFF for the day.
But, the damage was done with impressive performances and a few early upsets to set the tone for the Round of 64.
Pictured: Keoni Lasa (EUK) began dismantling the proceedings among North America's best with a brilliant performance. Credit: © WSL / Wolfe Photography
Before the strong winds and rain overtook Encuentro Beach, a jaw-dropping performance from Basque Country’s Keoni Lasa led the Round of 64. Lasa’s powerful forehand attack and variety led to an excellent, 8.33 (out of a possible 10) and 15.40 (out of a possible 20) heat total.
Though the WSL Europe competitor cannot gain points at this event, being out of his region, his Round of 64 showcase helped dismantle the proceedings by eliminating one of the top-seeded competitors Kei Kobayashi (USA).
“I saw a couple waves before my heat that opened up better on the outside and I was hoping to get a couple like that,” said Lasa. “Then I got my first one which was pretty big, and I got a big score on that before backing it up with a seven-point ride. I don’t focus too much on the names [in my heat] and just want to show my surfing so now I hope to go like that in the next rounds.”
No stranger to the Caribbean, Luke Gordon (USA) put together a well-orchestrated, Round of 64 debut alongside fellow South Carolina competitor Cam Richards (USA), also advancing. Gordon found his gem to unleash multiple, backhand turns and earn a near-excellent 7.67 as emerging surfer Luke Wyler (USA) nearly had the heat before Gordon and Richards took control.
“It worked out just the way we wrote it up (laughs),” said Gordon. “It feels really good to make a heat with Cam [Richards] and I haven’t made a heat in a long time so it feels good to finally win one. It’s anyone’s game really with the points that are left between here and Barbados, and you can make the Challenger Series so it’s go time.”
Panama’s Tao Rodriguez continues to find success in the jersey, fresh off a Quarterfinal appearance in Cocoa Beach, and brought that form to Dominican Republic. Rodriguez’s forehand led him to a 7.57 as he looks to continue his run through competitions among North America’s best.
“I try to have a good and have a good heat in some good waves,” said Rodriguez. “I felt good in that heat, a little nervous just being the first heat, and felt confident. It feels like there’s some more expectations now after some results so I’m just dialing everything down and keeping the noise out. This wave can be tricky on days like today, trying to see what waves are good but I’m going to give it my best.”
Also notching Round of 64 victories, Dwight Pastrana (PRI) joins top-seeded competitors Wheeler Hasburgh (CAN), and Ryland Rubens (USA) as the remaining top seeds await their start.
“I’m just having so much fun here and to get a good heat is even better,” said Hasburgh. “Hopefully I can make a couple more between here and Barbados, it’s so exciting to have these places to finish off the year. Maybe even get into the Top 7, I know I’m kind of far but I’m just going to keep having fun and try my best.”
Event organizers will reconvene at 7:00 a.m. AST to determine a likely 7:30 a.m. AST start.
The Cabarete Pro presented by Surf and Wind City QS 3,000 will run March 15 - 19 at Encuentro Beach, Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic.
For more information, please visit WorldSurfLeague.com.