The lush, tropical beach of Praia da Tiririca provided the back drop for Day 5 of the Mahalo Surf Eco Festival in Itacaré, Bahia. Sunny skies and waves in the 2-to-3-foot (1-meter) range were on hand as Rounds 4 and 5 and the Quarterfinals were all completed.
Connor O'Leary (AUS) has been outstanding in his recent heats and has continued to post high scores in the excellent range. Facing Michael Wright (AUS) in Heat 7 of Round 5, O'Leary linked together three vertical snaps in the pocket on a righthander to earn the highest single-wave score of the event, a blistering 9.57 (out of a possible 10 points). Wright followed with an 8.93 and a 7.77 for a 16.70 total. But O'Leary could not be deposed after collecting an 8.87 (even discarding an 8.50) for the highest heat total of the event as well, an 18.44.
"That was a really tough heat with Mikey," said O'Leary. "He's one of the best up-and-coming surfers in Australia, not to mention the world. It was a really good heat and we both got good scores and the waves turned on for our heat. We're good mates, we've been staying at the same hotels since Florianopolis. So we've been playing some card games and surfing a bit, so it's heaps good."
After defeating Wright, O'Leary maintained his lofty strike-rate and went on to overcome Beyrick De Vries (ZAF) in the Quarterfinals with a 9.07 and an 8.83 (17.90) against the 12.10 totaled by the South African.
With his result today, O'Leary climbs to No. 10 on the QS rankings and is currently eligible for qualification onto the 2016 Championship Tour. O'Leary remained modest when asked about his accomplishment.
"I'm not really too worried now," declared O'Leary. "I'm just kind of doing my thing and we'll see what happens from there."
O'Leary will now face the only Brazilian surfer still left in competition at the Mahalo Surf Eco Festival, David do Carmo (BRA), who defeated Noe Mar McGonagle in Heat 3 of the Quarterfinals by a score of 12.90 to 11.90 respectively.
"I lost early on in Florianopolis with an interference call, but here I've been really letting my surfing do the talking," Do Carmo said. "I'm stoked to be the last Brazilian still competing. This is going to be my best result of the year and now I'm going to do my best tomorrow."
On the other side of the heat draw, Heat 1 of the Semifinals will see the two highest ranked surfers on the QS still alive at the Mahalo Surf Eco Festival face off against each other. Ryan Callinan (AUS) is currently in seventh place on the 2015 Qualifying Series, while Kanoa Igarashi (USA) sits in sixth and needs to win at Praia da Tiririca to obtain 23,350 points and guarantee his promotion to the CT next year.
Callinan began the day by beating Bruno Galini (BRA) in Round 5 by a score of 11.67 to 9.73, then defeated fellow countryman Soli Bailey (AUS) with a solid score of 15.24 to 13.17 in Heat 1 of the Quarterfinals.
"I think I still need a bit more, maybe a win here to seal it," he said when asked about his current standing on the QS. "It's good to be in the Top 10, but you never know what can happen in Hawaii."
In Heat 4 of Round 5, Igarashi, the young surfer from California, merited high scores from the judges after demolishing the righthanders at Praia da Tiririca for an 8.90 and an 8.73 (17.63), eliminating Ramzi Boukhiam (MAR) who obtained a 14.74 heat total. Then in Heat 2 of the Quarterfinals, Igarashi defeated Santiago Muniz (ARG) by a score of 15.50 to 12.47 respectively.
"I think I needed to get the best waves, and I think I did that," Igarashi said. "I did what I set out to do, so I'm stoked. This event has been really good to me. I got to the Quarters in Florianopolis and I'm in the Semis now here, so it's been a really good leg for me so far and hopefully I can win this one."