Against all-odds the Azores Airlines Pro pres. by SEAT resumed in improved conditions with two-to-three foot punchy peaks gracing the West corner of Santa Barbara beach this morning. The event’s top seeds entered competition in Round Two and fought all-day for a precious spot into the next round.
The Brazilian contingent thrusted the post-heat winner interview spot with a demonstration of excellent surfing from the likes of Jesse Mendes (BRA), Alex Ribeiro (BRA) and Yago Dora (BRA) in the first few heats.
With twenty-seven athletes in Round Two, the auriverde crew not only is the biggest in number, but also packs some serious talent with rankings leader Mendes’ just marching through with momentum, Ribeiro dominating his heat from start to finish and Dora showcasing his x-factor aerial game for the event’s highest combined heat total.
“Our heat was kind of slow, it often happens with the first heat of the day somehow,” Mendes reflected. “But I managed to get a couple fun ones so I’m happy. I’m on a CI board, a new model that I tried first in Japan and have been hooked on ever since. It’s a shortboard with less rocker and it works incredibly well to go through the flat sections.”
“My epoxy board works just so well in those conditions,” Ribeiro explained. “I was right at home in those conditions and with my magic board I was just relaxed and having a lot of fun! I’m stoked to make it through and advance with Thiago (Camarao) my good friend, he got that last wave and made the most of it so I’m happy for him too.”
“I expected it to be a really good heat and it turned out to be!” Dora said. “I had a couple of mediocre scores at the beginning and realized I needed to step it up and do something else. Waves were kind of wedge and fun so I went for the air. The European leg is always good to me and I love coming here to the Azores.”
Former Championship Tour surfer Alejo Muniz (BRA), 27, continued with the trend and added another win on behalf of the Brazilian team. Muniz currently sits in 21st place on the Qualifying Series and needs a big result if he’s to re-qualify for the elite tour he was apart of the last six years.
“I’ve been training very hard and had a shocker in Pantin which was very hard for me,” Muniz said. “So I just wanted to surf you know, no strategy I really just wanted to show what I can do. I’ve been surfing the same board as last week, but without the neoprene suit I feel much lighter and better in those waves.”
Another strong candidate for a potential CT berth in 2018 is the current QS No.9 and yet another Brazilian Willian Cardoso (BRA), 31. Cardoso’s buzzer-beater win came with an impressive 8.77 on a shoulder-high left and four turns including a first massive backhand gauge to set the tone.
“I had a low back-up and I knew the other two guys could score at any time so I tried to stay patient and be in the right spot when finally a really good wave came at the end,” Cardoso said. “I like surfing backside, I know I’m capable of getting big scores for two good turns so I enjoy those conditions. I had two poor results in California and Pantin so that was disappointing after my runner-up in South Africa, but I’m still feeling good and I hope I can make more heats here this week.”
A number of other surfers contributed to that trend to build an nineteen-man strong Brazilian field in Round Three when the event recommences.
Surfers and event officials will reconvene at 7:20 a.m Thursday in expected great waves for a third consecutive day of competition in Azores.