Officials decided to run through the opening round of competition as the weather and swell forecast for the week look uncharacteristic for Azores and difficult for the entire event to run in time.
Ariihoe Tefaafana (PYF), 22, found a punchy left peak and tore it to pieces on his forehand, selecting the longer waves to combine multiple turns all the way to shore. The Tahitian surfed his way to the two highest single-wave scores of the event so far with a solid 15.74 heat total to advance into Round Two.
“It’s not easy out there but I’m happy I made it through,” Tefaafana said. “Coming as an alternate, there’s always a little pressure to fly somewhere and spend some money when you’re not even sure you’re going to surf in the event. So I’m super happy to win that one in fun waves. This island reminds me a lot of home, so I feel comfortable and I like it here.”
Kilian Garland (USA), 30, took a very similar approach to scoring in the waist-high Azorean surf but on his backhand on those long little lefts. He surfed a total of eight waves during his heat, seeking to build momentum and improve on each of his attempts for a qualifying spot into the next round.
“I started off with a couple little waves and then built my scores, I found a wedge that turned into a pretty good little wave,” Garland explained. “It’s kind of sneaky, you don’t really see them coming and you think they’re going to hit a spot and they don’t, so I was stoked to pick up a couple there. I’ve really enjoyed my first trip to Spain and now I’m having a great time here in the Azores. I’m going to try to visit some of the sites, see the volcano and lakes etc.”
Billy Stairmand (NZL), 27, followed right in Garland’s footpath and incorporated a little variety with a backhand rotation to conclude one of his best scoring rides of 7.77. He also surfed some of the rights, which not many surfers opted to ride today, and put an overall convincing effort to move into Round Two.
“I got a bit of confidence after that first score,” Stairmand admitted. “There’s fun little left wedges like at home and this is pretty much my first heat win all year so I’m pretty stoked. I got nervous in the first half of that heat but when I got that first wave it really pumped me up and then I wanted to surf everything that came by.”
The red jerseys suffered a real damaging day with the eliminations of Leandro Usuna, Reef Heazlewood, Jacob Willcox, Dusty Payne, Nomme Mignot, Mateus Herdy, Parker Coffin and Maxime Huscenot among other shocking early exits.
Event officials and surfers will reconvene at 8 a.m Wednesday to re-assess conditions and decide of the second day’s schedule.