By WSL/Nicolas Leroy
The Seat Pro Netanya pres by Reef came to an epic end today with Matthew McGillivray's victory over Charly Martin in the Final. The day started in remains of yesterday's massive storm, and while the lineup was originally shifty with big, clean-out sets, conditions improved considerably throughout the day and gave way to super clean, three-to-four surf.
Charly was first to capitalize on the glassy peaks with a little cover-up and a good turn to post a 6.5, nothing major but the first decent score of the Final. On the 10-minute mark, Charly and Matthew started on back-to-back waves and surfed them pretty much the same, but Matt got the nod with a 7.2 over Charly's 6.9.
Turning the heat gave Matthew a big confidence boost, and the South African soon launched into a big forehand rotation to post an 8.33 and build a solid lead. Despite many comeback efforts from Charly, the situation remained the same and Matthew walked away with the win.
"This feels amazing," he said. "This is my third year on the QS, I've put in a lot of hard work so it feels amazing to finally get a win. Yesterday was huge with the big storm so we were wondering what was going to happen today with the waves, but it got better and better and there were some amazing waves."
Three years in, Matthew's best results have been just a couple of runner-up finishes in Durban and Tahiti, and today was his first-ever win on the big stage. His path to the Final included an incredible seven consecutive heats with a scoreboard over 14 points, and a near-perfect 18.33 in the semis. Not bad for a first time surfing the Med!
"Israel's an amazing country," he added. "Everyone we met here was so passionate about surfing, there are way more surfers that I could have ever expected. Everyone was super friendly and very supportive on the beach, we've had great food every day, it's really been a great trip."
Charly on the other hand is no stranger to winning. His resume boasts a couple of major wins, and his latest to date came in his final event of 2017 in China. It's safe to say he's on a roll and it's going to be interesting to follow him in the next couple of major events in Australia.
"Obviously I would have loved to win this one too," Charly said. "I felt like I had done the hardest part, but I'm stoked to get a Final at my first event of the season. Last year I didn't get a good result until November so I'm definitely starting a lot better. I've had a blast and the past 10 days just flew by. The people and the country are great."
In the first Semifinal, Kei Kobayashi was all over the place. The Californian, who seemed calm and collected up until then, looked like he'd lost all patience and tried a couple of big rotations, but always came short of landing them clean.
Kei jumped from 328th in 2016 to No. 100 on the QS last season, and seeing as he looked sharp all week in Israel, we can expect big things from him this season.
"Matt surfed really well and I knew I was going to need two big scores," he said. "We both knew we're going to go for airs, and I had a couple I knew could have been very big scores but I made mistakes and didn't land them. The waves were firing in the expression session before our heat and I think I frothed out and lost my calm a little."
In the second semifinal, Charly and Nelson Cloarec went heat-to-head in what was probably the closest battle of the day. Nelson had the upper hand for most of the 30-minute heat but Charly came back with a big rotation and finally stopped the former European Junior champ's run in Israel.
"It's really positive to start the year with a result like that," Nelson said. "I've been coming in for three years and have always managed to get a good result so I'm super happy with this experience again. I think this is the best of all three editions waves-wise and I'll definitely be back!"
What was probably most unexpected were a couple of big losses in the Quarters. Miguel Pupo and Jorgann Couzinet fell to Nelson and Matthew respectively. The lineup was a lot shiftier and hard to read in the morning and the two biggest names in the event couldn't find the right waves while the active tactics of their opponents paid off, big time.
Final Results of SEAT Pro Netanya pres. by Reef
1. Mathew McGillivray (ZAF)
2. Charly Martin (FRA)
3. Kei Kobiyashi (USA), Nelson Cloarec (FRA)
5. Reo Inaba (JPN), Jorgann Couzinett (FRA), Miguel Pupo (BRA), Maxime Huscenot (FRA)
With the first European QS event now completed, the region's Top 5 stands as follows: European Qualifying Series Top 5:
1 - Charly Martin
2 - Nelson Cloarec
3 - Jorgann Couzinet
3 - Maxime Huscenot
5 - Tom Cloarec
Stop No. 2 on the European Qualifying Series, the QS 1,500 Las Americas Pro Tenerife will take surfers to the Canary Islands from January 29 to February 4.