Photos by Jorge Matreno/ANSurfistas
After a very emotional final day in Ribeira d'Ilhas, the young Afonso, just 16 years old, achieved his first career victory in the Liga MEO Surf, while Carolina Mendes, national champion of 2016 and 2017, returned to the triumphs more than a year after the last one. With these victories, both reached the leadership of the national ranking, although in the male case there is an equality in the leadership between Frederico Morais, who lost in the semi-finals of this stage, and Afonso.
The morning started with many surprises and that was how the day progressed towards the finals in the early afternoon in a sunny Ribeira d’Ilhas. Vasco Ribeiro's elimination in the first heat of the day, against Francisco Almeida and Eduardo Fernandes was the clear sign of the revolution imposed by outsiders and young surfers this season in the MEO Surf 2020 League. The local surfer and title champion of this stage, Tomás Fernandes, was another surfer to miss the passage to the quarter-finals, after being eliminated in the 3rd round by Luís Perloiro and Henrique Pyrrait.
In the quarter-finals Frederico Morais imposed his natural favouritism against Francisco Almeida, while national champion Miguel Blanco did the same against Eduardo Fernandes. In the other two heats, Henrique Pyrrait continued to show the local knowledge of the wave by eliminating João Moreira, while Afonso Antunes beat Luís Perloiro in a very balanced duel. Afonso won and raised the bar in the semi-finals, eventually winning with relative ease against Henrique Pyrrait. Before that, Blanco had broken the favouritism of Frederico Morais, in a heat in which Kikas did not find many waves.
In the final Afonso faced the national champion Miguel Blanco, who was recovering lost ground, after 5th place in Figueira. However, the young surfer, who competes for Ericeira Surf Clube, started the final in full swing and in the first minutes he immediately scored 6.50 and 7 points. With the chronometer running, Afonso improved the situation and the win was never compromised, ending the decisive heat with 14.35 points, against 11.10 by Blanco.
“It is one of the happiest days of my life. It is a deserved result after everything I went through at the beginning of the year, when I broke my leg. I worked hard to be here. I want to thank my father and coach, but also my physical therapist. I think that having reached this stage very strong physically turned out to be a determining factor. Now I'm going to give everything to win the next stage”, affirmed Afonso Antunes, who fractured his leg at the beginning of the year, making the first stages in 2020 in the Liga MEO Surf.
After reaching the semi-finals at Figueira da Foz, in what at the time was the best result of his career in the Liga MEO Surf, junior Afonso Antunes, raised the bar even further in Ericeira, achieving the first final and the first victory in league stages. In this way, Afonso equalled Frederico Morais at the top of the ranking. However, it will be the young surfer, son of the former national champion João Antunes, to wear yellow in Sintra, since he has better seeding compared to the previous year - Kikas only entered one stage in 2019.
In the women's competition, with Yolanda Hopkins dominating the show in the 3rd round, Carolina Mendes and Teresa Bonvalot were also on a good path towards the semi-finals. The big surprise turned out to be the young Carolina Santos, who also made it to the semi-finals, after leaving generation colleagues Mafalda Lopes and Kika Veselko along the way. In these semi-finals the suspense increased, with Teresa and Yolanda providing a super close heat, where the ranking leadership was at stake. After a very exciting final wave exchange, Teresa ended up being just 0.20 points from winning. In the other semi-final, Carolina Mendes gained balance and won the namesake with the best score of the entire event: 18.25 points, with a score of 9.50 points in the middle.
It was with high morale that Carol reached the final, but Yolanda did not seem to want to hesitate and the dispute started better. Again, the balance was maintained until the last seconds, with a wave exchange that ended up allowing Carolina Mendes to go ahead of the score by just 0.30 points. It was already in the sand that the surfers heard the final results, with Carol getting 12.60 points, against 12.30 of the national champion Yolanda Hopkins.
“My heartbeat is still very strong. I am very happy to have won. This is a wave that I love and where I had already won. In the final it was very difficult to find waves with potential. I had an error at the beginning of the heat, which ended up complicating my life during the heat. But that wave appeared 10 seconds from the end and I got it happily. It was a good heat, Yolanda is also surfing very well. I will work to try to win again in the next stage”, stated Carolina Mendes, shortly after the triumph.
This was Carolina Mendes' ninth victory in the MEO Surf League, which she had not won since 2018 in Sintra. It was the second time she won at Ericeira, after having already done so in 2017, curiously against Yolanda Hopkins, who on 5 July made the fourth consecutive final in this stage, but without ever winning in Ribeira d’Ilhas. Carol thus joins this triumph to the 2nd position achieved in Figueira da Foz and takes the lead in the ranking and the race for the national title, surpassing Teresa Bonvalot, with Yolanda being in the 3rd position.
After the finals, the Renault Expression Session was also held, with the triumph awarded to young Martim Paulino, who flew higher than all the competition. He was the second winner of the year, after Guilherme Ribeiro's victory in Figueira da Foz in this same trophy.
Allianz Ericeira Pro final results:
Men's final: Afonso Antunes 14.35 x Miguel Blanco 11.10
Women's final: Carolina Mendes, 12.60 x Yolanda Hopkins 12.30
Ericeira Best Surfer: Afonso Antunes and Francisca Veselko
Somersby Onda do Outro Mundo: Teresa Bonvalot 9.60 points in round 1
Renault Expression Session: Martim Paulino
Sumatra Surf Trip (Best Junior): Afonso Antunes and Francisca Veselko
Bom Petisco Girls Score: Carolina Mendes, 18.25 in the semi-finals
Allianz Ericeira Pro also relied on the Altice Foundation's usual sustainability initiatives and the dynamics associated with protecting biodiversity and promoting healthy eating at the Jerónimo Martins Group.
Now, the MEO Surf League goes to Praia Grande. It is there that from 1 to 3 August the Allianz Sintra Pro will be played, the third stage of the circuit and also the last of three events to be counted for the Allianz Triple Crown. Afonso Antunes and Carolina Mendes will reach Sintra in the leadership of the national ranking, but also fight for this sub-trophy, although in the male case Afonso is tied with Frederico Morais in both rankings.
Allianz Ericeira Pro can be watched from home with full live streaming on Sport TV, as well as in other official media: MEO's facebook, in position 810 of the MEO channel grid, on ligameosurf.pt and social networks on @ansurfistas.
Liga MEO Surf 2020 is an organisation of the National Surfers Association and Fire!, sponsored by MEO, Allianz Seguros, Renault, Bom Petisco, Somersby, Banco Santander, Rip Curl, the sustainability partners of Fundação Altice and Jerónimo Martins, local support from the Municipality of Mafra and technical support from Ericeira Surf Clube and the Portuguese Surfing Federation.