South Africa’s Matthew McGillivray has won the SEAT Pro Netanya presented by Reef in Israel.
McGillivray was competing in shifty 1.0 to 1.5 metre surf, defeating France’s Charly Martin in the event’s final.
The last day of competition resumed in solid surf from the storm that hit the Israeli coast and conditions cleaned up to deliver great conditions for the finals.
The first World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) 3,000 rated event of 2018 unfolded in great conditions over the 10 days of the event’s waiting period, culminating with McGillivray’s victory.
‘This feels amazing,’ McGillivray exclaimed. ‘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 the waves were huge with the big storm so we were wondering what was going to happen today, but it got better and better and there were some amazing waves in the final.’
The 20 year-old from Jeffreys Bay, South Africa, had an incredible run from Round One through to the final, scoring seven heat totals above 14 points, including a near-perfect 18.33 in the semis to eliminate one of the strongest surfers this week, California’s Kei Kobayashi.
This victory marks McGillivray’s first triumph on the Qualifying Series and will see him take the number one spot on the QS rankings before the next leg of events, already underway in Australia.
‘Israel’s an amazing country,’ McGillivray continued. ‘Everyone we met here was so passionate about surfing. There are way more surfers that I could have ever expected and everyone was super friendly and very supportive on the beach. We’ve had great food every day, it’s really been a great trip!’
In the final, Martin opened with a little tube ride and a good turn for a 6.5 to turn an early lead on the heat. Ten minutes in, the surfers took off on back-to-back waves, each surfing a similar right breaking wave with a massive first turn and a couple of follow-up manoeuvres. McGillivray got the nod with a 7.2 over Martin’s 6.9 (both out of 10).
The South African continued to build his tally with a big forehand rotation to post an excellent 8.33 and take the lead. Despite many efforts, Martin couldn’t come back from this blow and ended runner-up.
The surfer from Guadeloupe who finished his 2017 season with a win at a QS3,000 in China, opens his 2018 campaign with 2,250 points and a great confidence boost.
‘Obviously I would have loved to win this one too,’ Martin 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, the past ten days just flew by and the people and the country are great.’
After a stellar run through the earlier rounds, Kei Kobayashi (US) couldn’t quite find the same rhythm in his semi-final bout with McGillivray. The young Californian looked a little anxious in the semis and missed the landings of a couple of aerials, ultimately conceding the win to the South African.
In the second semi-final, Nelson Cloarec (FRA) had a strong lock on the heat with only minutes remaining on the clock, but Martin pulled a big manoeuvre to turn the situation. Losing his priority and needing a big number, Cloarec placed equal third to start his 2018 qualifying effort.
In the quarter-finals, the surprise eliminations of Miguel Pupo (Brazil) and Jorgann Couzinet (France) came at the hands of Cloarec and McGillivray respectively. Early morning conditions were extremely difficult with shifting peaks and closeout sets across the beach.
Picture of victorious McGillivray (right) and runner-up Martin courtesy of WSL/Masurel