Another exciting day of action took place as the event's top seeds hit the water on Day 3 of the 2016 WSL QS1500 Maui and Sons Arica Pro Tour. The surfers put on a show as heavy barrels in the 8-10 foot range (2.5-3 meters) plowed through the El Gringo reef-break. The current WSL South America rankings leader, Leandro Usuna (ARG) brought his A-game to Arica and let it be known that he's as big a threat in powerful barrels as he is above the lip in beach-break conditions.
In the early morning conditions, Lucas Silveira (BRA) advanced in 2nd place in Heat 1 of Round 2 when he showed his go-for-it attitude by paddling into the biggest sets of the heat, but Usuna showed superior wave selection, earning a 7.00 and a 5.67 (12.67) on his two best rides compared to Silveira's 7.94 total.
"This is the third time I'm competing at the event," said Usuna. "I like big, powerful, barreling waves like El Gringo because there's nothing like this at home in Argentina. I've been pretty anxious for the last two or three days. I've been psyching to put my jersey on and each day has been bigger than the last, so I've had some sleepless nights (laughs). Now that I made it passed my first heat, I'm not going to put too much pressure on myself, but I'm definitely hoping to do well here."
Usuna is focused on claiming this year's WSL South America title, which will automatically place him into all of the 2017 QS 10,000 competitions - and an opportunity to qualify for the Samsung Galaxy Championship Tour.
In Heat 2 of Round 2, Lucas Chianca (BRA) stole the spotlight as he exhibited textbook frontside tube-riding to earn two scores in the excellent range (8.00 + 8.70) for the highest total heat score of the event so far of a 16.70. The young Brazilian from Saquarema has already shown a knack for threading his way through some of the biggest barrels in competition.
"I started going nuts as soon as I saw the waves this morning," exclaimed Chianca. "I wanted to jump right in, but I had to keep it together until my heat started. I love the waves here and I try to come as often as I can to surf or compete. So when conditions are like this, I feel more comfortable because of my experience. It feels great to win my heat, I caught some sick barrels and I'm looking forward to the next round."
Chianca had the unique opportunity of matching up against his younger brother, Joao, in the same heat.
"I'm happy I did well in my heat, but it's too bad my brother didn't advance as well. But he's still really young and he'll have plenty of other chances," continued Chianca. "We arrived seven days before the contest started and that made a big difference on a day like today. It seems like the waves are going to get a little smaller the next few days, but I still feel like I can get a good result here."
Without a doubt, local knowledge is a big factor in performing well at a wave like El Gringo. Recently, no one's logged in as much time at the reef-break as Manuel Selman (CHL) has. As a mainstay at the Maui and Sons Arica Pro Tour events, Selman once again showed why he is a perennial contender as he took first place and advanced into Round 3 along with Dean Bowen (AUS) in second.
"I've been surfing this wave for so long that my time here definitely gives me an edge," stated Selman. "It's always an incredible opportunity to compete here because El Gringo is such an amazing wave and I'm happy I get another chance to surf in the next round. It's not an easy wave to surf, so the more experience you have, the more confident you'll be out there. I definitely want to make it into the top 100 on the QS rankings and I feel like my performance here will surely help me out."
In 2013, Alvaro Malpartida (PER) performed outstandingly when he won the event at El Gringo. By scoring a heat total of 16.16 (7.33 + 8.83), Malpartida conveyed that he is definitely in the running for another title.
Despite not having the easiest of heats, Malpartida felt as if destiny were on his side as well as the support of the event and safety crew.
"That was a really tough heat for me," remarked Malpartida. "There weren't a lot of waves coming through and at the end I needed a high score and I didn't have priority. But it seemed like things were meant to be because a big set came in and all three surfers paddled into their waves and they all closed out except for the fourth one that I caught, which was perfect. All the surfers here rip, so it's an honor to be competing against them. I'd like to thank the event staff and organizers because they're really taking care of us and our safety. If anything happens, there is an entire medical team and water patrol that are ready to help out. That means a lot to the athletes, especially at a wave like El Gringo."
A call is set for 7:30 am local time to complete the remainder of Round 2. Heat 7 will see Cristobal De Col (PER) battle against Jeronimo Vargas (BRA), Yage Araujo (BRA) and the lone Frenchman in the competition, William Aliotti (FRA).