Competition continued at the World Surf League QS 1,500 Maui and Sons Arica Pro Tour with glassy waves in the 3-to-5-foot range (1-1.5 meters), but contest directors decided to only run four heats due to strong onshore winds at El Gringo.
Before conditions deteriorated, Andy Criere (FRA) was completely in sync with the barreling lefthander and earned the day's highest heat score of a 16.40, which included a 9.50. The Frenchman has never been to Chile, let alone El Gringo, and has been impressed with the country.
"The waves here are very powerful and it's great for getting barreled," Criere said. "It's a very interesting place to surf. You just need to respect El Gringo, and I always respect the ocean. Conditions can change quickly, so you always have to pay attention and know how to make the right decisions when the sets come."
Surfing in the same heat as Criere were WSL Big Wave Tour (BWT) surfer Cristian Merello (CHL) and WSL South America rankings leader Robson Santos (BRA), who were both called for interference. But even with his second scoring wave reduced by half, Merello still squeaked by with an 8.07 heat total to advance into Round 4.
"I already knew that there would be a lot of battling in the water and that the heats would be tough," said Criere. "I entered the water thinking that I needed to get at least one good wave. There was some hassling going on for positioning, which is normal because everyone wants to win, so I decided to paddle a little farther right, and that's where I found the waves that gave me the victory. I only started to feel more relaxed after I got spat out of that barrel that turned into a 9.5. The battle for second place was intense. I know there were a couple of interferences, so I'm happy I advanced into the next round."
Due to his loss, Santos has left the door open for Lucas Silveira (BRA) to gain ground on the WSL South America rankings. When competition resumes, Silveira will be in the first heat of the day and will face former Championship Tour (CT) surfer Paulo Moura (BRA) and Peruvian standouts Miguel Tudela and Lucca Mesinas.
In Heat 1 of Round 3, Lucas Chianca (BRA) continued his torrid pace as he advanced to Round 4 in first place alongside Sebastian Correa (PER). The pair eliminated 2013 event winner Alvaro Malpartida (PER) and Joaquin Del Castillo (PER) respectively.
"It was a close heat and everyone wanted to win badly," Chianca said. "This is my third time to Arica and I love this wave. Even without a contest, I enjoy coming here to practice because it's so similar to Pipeline."
In addition to Merello, Chileans Manuel Selman and Nicolas Vargas also displayed their local knowledge and advanced into Round 4. Vargas caught an 8.50 on an incredible tube ride to lead the charge for the Chileans.
"I'm so stoked to be competing in this event again, because it's such an important contest for the Chileans," said Vargas. "It's even more exciting when you're getting nice barrels and winning heats."
According to the regional forecast, a large swell is moving up the coast and a significant size increase -- from overhead to triple-overhead -- is expected to build throughout the weekend.
Watch all the action live: www.mauiandsons.cl/aricaprotour2015