The Costa Rican surfer Leilani McGonagle made her country proud this past weekend by clinching an impressive third place finish at the 2023 US Open surfing competition in Huntington Beach, California.
The 25-year-old from Pavones put on a tremendous performance in the prestigious Challenger Series event, defeating world class opponents before eventually falling to Australian veteran Sally Fitzgibbons in the semifinals on Sunday.
McGonagle’s epic 30-minute semifinal showdown with Fitzgibbons was a back and forth affair, with the lead changing hands several times. Leilani rode 12 waves to Sally’s 10, demonstrating the fierce competitiveness between the two surfers.
Down to the final minute, Leilani took one last wave in an attempt to post the score needed to reach the final. She scored a 5.80 on the wave, but it wasn’t enough to overcome Fitzgibbons, who finished with a heat total of 13.20 to Leilani’s 12.80.
Although disappointed to narrowly miss out on the final, McGonagle was praised for her fighting spirit. “I built so many great things throughout the process that got me here. So with confidence I can say I’m proud of myself,” she wrote on Instagram.
She vowed to her fans to keep working hard and maintain her brilliant form. “One day I’ll be the actual champ, instead of just the peoples’ champ,” she declared.
The Huntington Beach event is a crucial stop on the Challenger Series calendar. The beach is an iconic surfing location where legends have been made over the years.
Leilani McGonagle is certainly a rising star to watch. Her impressive result proves she has the talent to compete with the very best in the world.
After a break, the Challenger Series will continue in October. With more performances like the US Open, Leilani could soon be competing on the elite World Championship Tour.