The first day of competition at the Quiksilver Pro Saquarema is in the books after an exciting day of action at Praia de Itauna, in the State of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Waves in the 3-to-5-foot range (1-1.5 meters) provided lengthy rides and punchy sections, which resulted in major maneuvers for big scores from the field of international athletes at the second World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) 10,000-point event of 2015.
Dusty Payne (HAW) displayed a combination of power, technique and strategy to earn the highest heat total of the day -- a 16.95 -- in Heat 10 of the Round of 96. Former Championship Tour (CT) surfer Aritz Aranburu (ESP) advanced with Payne into the Round of 48, defeating Kiron Jabour (HAW) and Cahill Bell-Warren (AUS) respectively.
"I planned out a strategy before my heat and it worked out," said Payne, who remains red-hot after a Semifinal result at last week's Oakley Lowers Pro in California. "I noticed that no one was going on the rights that started breaking, and so even without priority, I stuck to them and I was able to find some nice ones. I was exhausted from the flight, so I was thrilled we had that lay day to rest up. I practically slept all day. I only got up to catch a few waves and get to know the spot."
Another athlete who worked the rights for high scores was Ryan Callinan (AUS), who tore one wave apart for a 9.50, the highest of the event so far. Hiroto Ohhara (JPN) advanced in second, eliminating current CT surfer Brett Simpson (USA).
"Nothing feels better than coming out of the water with a score like," Callinan said. "I got lucky. Brett Simpson let one go and it turned out to be a really good one. I had to rush to catch it, but I took advantage of the opportunity and did everything I had to. Last year was the first time I fully committed to the QS and I made a lot of mistakes. So I hope I can learn from that experience and continue getting better this year."
Callinan currently sits in 13th place on the QS rankings and hopes to improve his place in the standings with a strong result at the Quiksilver Pro Saquarema.
A stunning upset came in the form of Quiksilver Pro Saquarema wildcard invitee Michael Wright (AUS), 18, took control of a stacked heat. Looking explosive, he netted a heat total of 16.83 to win his heat and advance into the Round of 48.
"Just being here is a blessing and being able to advance in first place after such a complicated heat is even better," said Wright, who is the younger sibling of elite CT surfers Owen and Tyler Wright. "When that wave came, I knew I had to get the most out of it." The young Australian arrived in Brazil in 357th place on the WSL QS rankings.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Alejo Muniz (BRA), who currently leads the QS rankings after a sizzling start to the 2015 season, looked fiery and focused. Muniz scored a 16.17 in Heat 6 and advanced in first place.
"I watched all of the heats before mine and I didn't expect it to have some of the higher scores," said Muniz. "I'm feeling very focused and trying to surf well heat by heat. This contest is very important for me to get back on the CT. I want to do well here and get a good result so I won't have that much pressure later on in the year."
A call is set for 7:30 a.m. local time with a possible 8:00 a.m. start. Competition will resume with Heat 17 of the Round of 96. Hitting the water will be last year's event winner Wiggolly Dantas (BRA), Maxime Huscenot (FRA), Deivid Silva (BRA) and Medi Veminardi (REU). Watch all the action LIVE on www.worldsurfleague.com.