Improved Conditions Allow Spectacular Surfing on Day 3 of Azores Islands Pro
SAO MIGUEL – Azores islands – As the Azores Islands Pro wrapped-up its second round of competition, the best conditions seen so far in the ASP World Qualifying Series (WQS) 6-Star rated event made the sixteen-heat day another great spectacle with all event top seeds getting their start. With clean four foot (1.2 meter) waves peeling along the sand banks of Ribeira Grande, the first major upsets occurred in dramatic fashion, many of the event’s best wave scores being ped by the ASP judging panel for several close heat-finishes.
From a couple of injuries to high scoring exchanges, it was a day of emotions on the island of Sao Miguel with several performances keeping the show to its world-class standard. While top seeds Patrick Beven (Biarritz, FRA), Leonardo Neves (BRA), Masatoshi Ohno (JPN) or Alain Riou (PYF) were suffering early eliminations, current ASP WQS ratings’ No. 3 Owen Wright (New South Wales, AUS) was able to post one of the day’s best scores, joining former ASP Top 45 surfer Cory Lopez (Florida, USA) on top of the event statistics’ board.
Wright and Lopez, who both went over the nine-point range breaking the event records with spectacular style and fast surfing, made the day of competition along with other high performer and ASP Dream Tour member Jihad Khodr (BRA). Wright, who dominated his first encounter in the Azores Islands Pro ahead of Brent Dorrington (Gold Coast, AUS), came-up with a series of fins-out powerful turns to advance through to Round 3 after posting a 9.17 point ride (out of a possible 10).
“It was pretty hard out there and Jorge (Spanner) broke his ankle during the heat,” Wright said. “It was really heavy with a lot of water moving around, a lot of backwash as well and it wasn’t easy to get into it but I got a good one that ran down the bank and it was pretty good. The problem after that was to get another score but there are some sick lefts coming through on the sand bank.”
Wright, who has had a stellar year for his rookie season as a full-time ASP WQS touring surfer, confirmed his abilities to surf in the good though tricky conditions on offer and will meet fellow big guns Dusty Payne (HAW), Jano Belo (BRA) and Jorge Spanner (BRA). With still a couple of low results to before bettering his overall ratings’ points’ total, Wright made his intentions clear today.
“It’s great to be here and I have never come before and we checked the place yesterday and it is very nice,” Wright said. “The water is beautiful and warm so it’s great to be here. I didn’t have such a good result at Lacanau so I am looking to do really well here. I need two more good results so that’s the main goal for that event.”
Showing the way towards big scoring surfing earlier was Lopez, the Floridian native getting his ticket for Round 3 in the dying seconds of his battle. Not finding any serious scoring potential during half of the heat, Lopez found himself in an unexpected fourth position needing a excellent 9.67 point ride to catch-up. Taking off on one of the best waves of the day in the last minute of the heat, Lopez opened his desperate ride with a massive air before finishing with a solid floater, breaking his board on the landing.
“Patrick (Beven) had a couple of good waves and Jihad (Khodr) obviously had it going well so I needed something like a nine-seven so I knew I had to go for something big,” Lopez said. “That wave gave me a big air section to start with and when you start a wave with a move like this you are on the way for a good score so I went for that floater and was happy to land it. I broke my favorite board so I am pretty bummed about that but it’s good to be here and keep going in the contest.”
Lopez, who was awarded a wildcard into the ASP WQS 6-Star event by presenting sponsor O’Neill, showed he was the come-back specialist today, leaving Beven away from any Round 3 hopes. From commitment to speed and progressive surfing, Lopez displayed the full repertoire of surfing to climb back-up to second place and advance.
“During the heat I was a bit bummed I to lose because I was getting away of that opportunity to perform well here and I was already thinking of being on a plane home in the evening but that wave came through and I did everything I could and I am excited to get through.”
Today’s highlights included the qualification of Portuguese hero and current ASP World Tour surfer Tiago Pires (Ericeira, PRT), 28, the national star escaping an early upset elimination in the last minute of his heat to jump from third to first and get the hundreds of people on the beach to cheer him from the water’s edge to the interview area.
“Surfing in front of my people is really great and I am so happy and proud to be Portuguese in times like this especially,” Pires said. “It’s amazing the support we get when competing here and I believe it is one of the countries where people are that supporting. We are united and I am proud to fly the flag.”
Pires, who is recovering from shoulder ligament injury, showed he was back in good form today using his experience and smart approach to patiently wait until the last minutes confidently and send two out of his three opponents packing, pleasing the Azorian crowd.
“It was a tough heat with guys who have a similar surf to mine so I was a bit nervous and it is always a bit stressing to have all the public behind you because you want to do well,” Pires said. “It was a heat of power surfing and solid-wave aficionados so it’s a great training for me to start this way. I am here to get ready for Trestles (home of the next ASP World Tour stop) and I am stoked I made it today.”
Fourty-eight men remain in contention for the first ever Azores Islands Pro coveted crown and they will get on with proceedings tomorrow from 8.30 AM, Round 3 featuring twelve four-man heats from which twenty-four only will get out “alive”. Most of the event top seeds are still in the race and some more stunning action will take place as the event moves towards its business end.
AZORES ISLANDS PRO ROUND 3 HEATS
Heat 1: Heitor Alves (BRA), Dion Atkinson (AUS), Travis Logie (ZAF), Justin Mujica (PRT)
Heat 2: Blake Jones (USA), Jarrad Sullivan (AUS), Bernardo Miranda (BRA), Jonathan Gonzalez (CNY)
Heat 3: Drew Courtney (AUS), Wiggoly Dantas (BRA), Austin Ware (USA), Marco Giorgi (URY)
Heat 4: Chad Du Toit (ZAF), Marco Polo (BRA), Jarrad Sullivan (AUS), Adam Melling (AUS)
Heat 5: Jayke Sharp (AUS), Tanner Gudauskas (USA), Madison Williams (AUS), Cory Lopez (USA)
Heat 6: Patrick Gudauskas (USA), William Cardoso (BRA), Raoni Monteiro (BRA), Jihad Khodr (BRA)
Heat 7: Aritz Aranburu (EUK), Jay Thompson (AUS), John John Florence (HAW), Brent Dorrington (AUS)
Heat 8: Hugo Savalli (REU, Jano Belo (BRA), Dusty Payne (HAW), Owen Wright (AUS)
Heat 9: Nic Muscroft (AUS), Yadin Nicol (AUS), Nathan Yeomans (USA), Jadson Andre (BRA)
Heat 10: Hodei Collazo (EUK), Gony Zubizarreta (ESP), Lincoln Taylor (AUS), Royden Bryson (ZAF)
Heat 11: Brandon Jackson (ZAF), Kai Barger (HAW), Rodrigo Dornelles (BRA), Jean-Sebastien Estienne (BLM)
Heat 12: Matt Wilkinson (AUS), Jean Da Silva (BRA), Leigh Sedley (AUS), Tiago Pires (PRT)