The QS10,000 EDP Billabong Pro Ericeira launched today in slightly onshore four-to-five foot surf and completed the opening round and seven heats of Round 2.
The morning heats unfolded under a Portuguese drizzle and a little fog with the lineup a tricky read around the high tide mark. Matheus Navarro found the winning recipe as he landed a couple of big turns on the inside section of a long wave for the first excellent score of the event, an 8.17 to advance into Round 2.
Ethan Ewing connected with the lip as well to post an 8.33 in the opening heat of the second round, kicking off a series of upsets as he eliminated World No. 16 Wade Carmichael. It also kicked off a dominant run from Australian athletes, quickly picked up by Matt Banting in the following heat.
“The wind’s coming into the face so it’s good be regular foot to look at the opportunities coming ahead instead of having your back facing it,” Banting explained. “I know I need to improve my lowest result by at least 1,000 points or even 2,000 to solidify my spot up there. It’d be nice not to worry about it going into Hawaii. I feel like I’ve had a little bit of that underdog support online, that’s one thing social media is good for, that and looking at other guys surf and getting excited for it.”
Up-and-coming talents Morgan Cibilic and Jordan Lawler cleaned up the qualifying spots in the next heat and eliminated compatriot and CT surfer Soli Bailey in the process. The two surfers ranked 22nd and 23rd respectively, who both rocketed into the QS spotlight courtesy of a big result in 2019 will bank confidence from this heat as they try to further climb up the Qualifying Series ladder.
Krystian Kymerson and Cooper Chapman posted a double upset as they defeated Top 34 athlete Michael Rodrigues and local favorite Vasco Ribeiro in Heat 4.
As the weather cleared mid-afternoon and the wind switched more offshore, waves cleaned up and offered more opportunities as the tide bottomed out. The two recent semifinalists in Azores Miguel Pupo and Gatien Delahaye picked up right where they left off and put on a dominant effort to take out the two advancing spots in Heat 6.
“I think 2011 the year I qualified is the last time I made big heats back-to-back like this,” Pupo said. “It feels good to be back in that form cause I’ve really been struggling the last few years. After the Australian leg I stayed home for three months and decided to focus on only the biggest events and luckily that move paid off for me.”
Conditions continued to build and in the next heat, Californian Nat Young attacked the rights on his backhand exactly like he would at home, to post a solid heat win over the form surfer of the moment Jake Marshall. With two wins under his belt already this season, Young is hanging by a thread right outside the bubble on the QS and needs another big push if he wants to re-join the Elite level next season.
“It’s nice to come back here and have good waves to start the event,” Young said. “I definitely have surfed my fair share of rights so it feels like home and it’s super nice to have plenty of opportunities out there. I feel good and there’s plenty of swell on the forecast so I’m looking forward to surfing more heats here in good surf.”
With a combination of light fog and side light later this afternoon, the glare became an issue for judges and competition was called off at the end of heat 7. Surfers will be back at 8 a.m Wednesday for a potential early re-start of Round 2 in Ericeira.