Surfers, event officials and fans have all been looking anxiously at maps for the past five days and what everyone was waiting for finally materialized. The Atlantic ocean distilled chunky eight foot plus surf for the fifth day of competition at the QS6,000 Azores Islands Pro to challenge surfers looking to advance into finals day.
When most surfers chased the bowling lefts with the craziest sections, Beyrick De Vries focused on the rights and did the job with carves and a strong finish to move into Round 5.
“It was always going to be a roll of the dice to see if you’re in the right position on those 6-to-8 foot waves,” De Vries said. “I’m just stoked a couple rolled my way. I think two more heats here would be good points-wise, I’d like to make the semis or better, every point counts and I’m hoping this is going to be a keeper. I just love coming here anyway it’s a great island and always good for the soul not just the points.”
Jackson Baker put on a clinic on the infamous lefts, chasing the most vertical sections to lay down his power turns. Still nursing an ankle injury, the Australian did not hold anything back as he attacked the big waves fearlessly.
“It’s pretty crazy out there,” Baker said. “I was a little bit nervous with my ankle cause I haven’t really surfed a wave over 2 foot let alone 6 foot bumpy, but I got a wave on the board and just kept moving from there. My ankle didn’t feel great but I’ll take it.”
Reef Heazlewood posted the biggest single score of Round 4, attacking a meaty left viciously to post a near-perfect 9.50. The goofy foot went all out as he hit the lip twice before committing to a big finish which he rode out of perfectly clean.
“I’m still in shock it all happened pretty fast for me out there,” Heazlewood said. “I can’t really remember the first turn but I was stoked with the second cause I hit the lip well and then that big whitewater section came at me and I hit it, I’m really stoked on the 9.50. My sister was here on holidays the first couple of days so we did a bit of touristing and it’s just so beautiful here I’ve really been enjoying it.”
Heat 7 of Round 4 was the most exciting battle of the day as Luel Felipe, Connor O’Leary and Vasco Ribeiro threaded the big lefts and posted huge scores one after another. O’Leary had the single highest score in the heat with a 9.20 but somehow lost against Felipe’s incredible 17.04 total and Ribeiro’s 14.46.
“I’m so tired right now those waves are so powerful and there’s a lot of paddling,” Felipe said. “I’m super stoked to have a good heat like that and make it to the next round. I’ve had to borrow a friend’s board cause mine were too small and I’m stoked it actually works really well.”
Earlier in the day, Ribeiro scored his own near-perfect score for a very similar ride and the exact same number, a 9.50 out of 10. Ribeiro went on to advance through his Round 4 bout as well and will feature on Finals day alongside Portuguese compatriot Frederico Morais.
Only 16 surfers remain after today’s showdown of epic proportions and they might be in for a treat with what is expected to be the best conditions of the whole event waiting period. This massive swell will peak through tonight and slowly decrease tomorrow as winds are supposed to switch to the South, cleaning up the lineup for potential big barrels on Sunday.