The Azores Airlines World Masters Championship resumed today in clean three-to-four foot surf and strong offshore winds at praia de Santa Barbara in Sao Miguel. The day witnessed historic action with the first-ever women’s Masters heats surfed on Day 2 of the event’s waiting period.
Some of the pioneers of women’s professional surfing put the competition jersey back on for the first time in years and showed how much great athletes they are, putting on big performances in their qualifying round.
The most successful surfer in the 1980s with four World Titles Frieda Zamba (USA) dominated the women’s opening round of competition. While most previous heats concentrated on the lefts, Zamba widened the field of possibilities with an incredible right on her backhand. Her three-turn combination was flawless and judges rewarded her with a 9 point ride, the highest score of the women’s event so far.
“It’s super fun out there I can’t complain!” Zamba said. “I found that staying active on the inside and not sitting too far out, gives you more opportunity to get those that come across and I found some really fun ones. It’s awesome to be here, I haven’t seen most of the girls in so long and we’ve had some good laughs and it’s a great reunion. It’s a good feeling to be part of that historical event and all the girls are surfing great!”
Zamba went on to win her second qualifying heat in the early afternoon and effectively eliminated long time rival Pam Burridge (AUS) from competition.
Layne Beachley (AUS), the seven-time World Champion from Manly had a similar great start in this event, taking out her two Round One matchups against Rochelle Ballard (HAW) and Jodie Cooper (AUS). Beachley took a page out of Zamba’s book and ripped the rights to pieces on her forehand to advance into the Semifinals.
“I’m not particularly happy with how I performed in that second heat but a win’s a win!” Beachley analyzed. “I’m super happy we got better conditions than the guys! We’ve been here for a few days so fortunately got to do some sightseeing and enjoyed the culinary delights of the Azores. It’s been good to catch up with everyone too, I haven’t had a chance to surf with Frieda since she comboed me at the OP Pro in 1990 so to spend some quality time in the water with her is cool.”
Rochelle Ballard (HAW) and Pauline Menczer (AUS) placed second in groups one and two respectively and will join Zamba and Beachley in the Semis.
The men’s Grand Masters took over the lineup after six heats of the women’s event and the show continued with an incredible first clash between the defending champion Iain Buchanan (NZL) and Glen Winton (AUS). ‘Ratso’ Buchanan seemed in total control with two good scores and his opponent in a combination situation. But Winton came back with an incredible left, locked in a quick little tube time before slaying two huge turns on the wave face for a 9.27, the highest single score of the event. He found a couple more waves and managed to overtake Buchanan and take the win.
“I was the first surfer here on the island and got some good practice so I could get a 9 and save myself!” Winton joked. “I have obviously been in similar situations in my career but not for a long time! Even with that 9, I needed another decent wave so it wasn’t easy. We are all born competitors, and back in the day we had to make the events we wanted to compete in ourselves, so the Grand Masters really appreciate the opportunity here. What’s wonderful is we all got healthy for this event, I personally had to work really hard for the last four months to get in a good enough shape to compete.”
Legendary Pipe surfer Michael Ho (HAW) went out in the following heat and found the barrel right away to post two good 7+ scores and take the win.
“I was just happy to get a good start cause yesterday I did five mistakes and didn’t want to repeat it,” Ho stated. “Watching Glen’s waves in the heat before got me really fired up and I realized there were a few little barrels out there.”
In the Grand Masters, Australians Rob Bain, Simon Anderson and Cheyne Horan qualified for the Semifinals with two heat wins each. Winton, Ho and Hans Hedemann (HAW) will take part in a three-man surf-off to fight for the fourth ticket into the Semis.
The men’s Masters then continued with three more heats but slightly less pressure as surfers in this category have three heats each to make their case and advance into the Quarterfinals.
Dave Macaulay (AUS) and Sunny Garcia (HAW) locked in a tight battle for first and exchanged good scores, ultimately going Macaulay’s way. Shane Beschen (HAW) followed with a dominant effort to dispatch Gary Elkerton (AUS) and Fabio Gouveia (BRA) took today’s last heat win over Damien Hardman (AUS).
The Masters will be back at 10:30 a.m Thursday to complete the remaining nine heats of Round One, with the Grand Masters coming in later to potentially run their Round Two, three-man surf off to decide who will take the final ticket for the semis. The women’s Masters event has been called OFF for Thursday.
Watch the event LIVE via wsl.tv/azores18.