Only six heats remain as competition steamed through another full day of action at the World Surf League Men's and Women's QS 1500 Praia do Forte Pro presented by Oi. Saturday began with sunny skies, moderate onshore winds and punchy waves, which depending on the tide, remained in the 2-foot range (0.5 meter) with the occasional larger set rolling through at the Papagente reefbreak.
All through the day, focus became centered on local surfer Bino Lopes (BRA), who has been putting on a standout performance throughout the week. In all of his heats, the crowd would walk out to the edge of the reef to cheer him on and rejoice with each big maneuver he pulled off. To their delight, Lopes won his Round 4 heat with a 14.50 total and saw Jesse Mendes (BRA) advance behind him in 2nd with a 14.10.
Then, against David do Carmo (BRA) in Heat 3 of the Quarterfinals, Lopes surpassed his prior feat by earning the highest heat wave total of the event, a 17.40 on his two best scoring rides (8.50 + 8.90). His local knowledge provided a winning formula as he stuck to the rights and mixed an assortment of heavy gouges with a solid air game to guarantee a slot in the Semifinals on Sunday.
"It's funny because I haven't been thinking too much about strategy and I've just been trying to follow my instincts. If I think too hard before a heat, I end up making a mistake," Lopes jokingly said. "The fact is, I've been surfing here since I was a kid, so I know this wave really well. I just need to concentrate on what I know how to do, and that's surfing. There's a long line of great surfers from Bahia that I look up to and they've all been a part of paving the way for me and my generation."
In the other Quarterfinal heats, Marco Fernandez (BRA) continued his stellar performance with another high scoring heat, earning a 17.00 total (9.00 + 8.00) and shocked everyone as he eliminated CT phenom Miguel Pupo.
Fernandez will now face Leandro Usuna (ARG), whose steady rhythm has put him in back-to-back Semifinals at the last two WSL South America Qualifying Series events. Bino Lopes will be matched up against Jesse Mendes (BRA), who defeated Franklin Serpa (BRA) in a close heat by a score of 13.35 to 12.50.
In between the Men's Round 4 and Quarterfinals, the Women's Quarterfinals finally took to the water after a three-day hiatus. In Heat 1, Silvana Lima (BRA), one of Brazil's best female surfers matched up against stylish up-and-comer Larissa Santos (BRA). Lima lived up to expectations and showed off her technique by displaying lightening quick turns and high-speed carves as she beat Santos handily by a score of 14.00 to 4.25.
"First off I want to thank everybody that's been giving us support, keep it going because it helps out a lot," said Lima. "I love the rights that break over here, they're so much fun. I'm stoked that I made it to the Semis, my board feels great and now I'm focusing on finishing off with a good result. I'll be competing at the Oi Rio Pro Championship Tour event next month and then right after that I'll compete in Mexico, El Salvador and then California. Those are three important events that can get me back on tour," finalized Lima.
In Heat 2 of the Quarterfinals, the current WSL South America Regional Champion Jacqueline Silva (BRA) felt right at home as she demonstrated her expertise on the rights at Praia do Forte. Silva worked her way through two long righthanders to defeat Tais Almeida (BRA) by a score of 14.00 to 9.60 and advanced directly into the Semifinals.
In her post-heat interview, Silva, who is a former QS Champion and CT surfer, is currently without a main sponsor and delivered a sincere message as she addressed the status of women's professional surfing.
"I think it's super important to have more women's events. Personally, I've had to distance myself from competition due to a lack of support, so it's vital to have more opportunities," commented Silva. "You can see all the girls together, encouraging each other and an event like this shows that women's surfing isn't dead! There are people that are willing to fight for our sport and our athletes, like Marina Werneck (Event Organizer) who's someone that made it happen, she brought more people in to get involved in the process and they're getting things done. We hope that this can be a new beginning to women's surfing in Brazil and in the world."
A call is set for 9:00 am local time on Sunday for the final day of competition at the WSL Men's and Women's QS 1500 Praia do Forte Pro presented by Oi. Watch all the action LIVE: www.worldsurfleague.com
The Praia do Forte Pro is presented by Oi in association with the Bahia State Government via SETRE (Department of Labor, Income and Athletics), Billabong, Skol Ultra, the City of Mata de Sao Joao and the support of ZooM Communication, Gocil and Turisforte.