The 2016 Azores Airlines Pro launched today in wind-affected three-to-five foot surf to complete the women's opening round and twenty heats of the men's competition. Surfers made the most out of a bumpy lineup and displayed excellent surfing at Monte Verde.
Most of the damage was made early on as the round's top scores were mostly awarded in the opening few heats, led by Hawaii's Kiron Jabour who helped set the judges scale with great surfing for a combined heat total of 15.14.
"I'm stoked, it was a little bit all-over the place so I kind of tried to find the peak that related to my surfing most and stuck to that peak," he analyzed. "There wasn't anyone even sitting there so I was stoked I got to pick which ever wave I wanted. The wave was pretty punchy and bowly, like a strong windswell, it's really fun, kind of like the beach park in Hawaii gets when it's windy."
Thiago Guimaraes helped make the late afternoon an exciting show again, selecting multiple long left-handers to display his power and belt the day's highest score of 8.50. The talented goofy foot opted to sit about 50 meters away from his fellow competitors on a completely different peak and found a great little wave to perform on.
Guimaraes' strategy didn't go un-noticed as a couple of heats later, Ian Crane moved over to the East peak as well to catch his share of the long opening waves on offer further down the beach.
"My first wave was really good, it just kept sending section my way and that was really fun!" he said. "After that I kind of loosened up and I was just enjoying myself. This is head-high and kind of punchy so just super fun and really any wave you get can be a score."
David Van Zyl adapted his plan of attack as the South-African's original option stopped working, and came out firing out of the gates to belt the day's second-highest single-wave score to advance into the second round.
"I actually wasn't planning to go surf that left cause we're parked on the other end of the beach and I've ben watching the right in front, but it just stopped breaking there and I paddled out on the left with everyone else," he explained. "I just got really lucky and found a couple of waves! It's been a long day of mostly waiting but I'm stoked I got to surf today in the afternoon waves were really fun. Waves here have a lot of juice, kind of like at home, so I feel really comfortable."
Reef Heazlewood capitalized on a last-minute call to replace an absent competitor, and stepped up to clinch an unexpected heat win in the opening round of competition in Azores. The young Australian junior in his first season traveling the World on the Qualifying Series will use this opportunity to build experience and hope to make more heats when the event resumes on Wednesday.
"I was an alternate before I got in so I watched the lineup a lot since this morning just to be ready in case I got the call," he said. "I only got here last night and it's my first time on the island so I haven't really had time to look around but I really look forward to it. The wave's really fun so I'm enjoying it a lot so far!"
Earlier this morning, the women's opening round was completed as well and despite being held in difficult conditions, the event's youngest and lowest ranked competitors put on a great show, led by young guns Summer Macedo and Vahine Fierro.
Event officials have convened surfers to a 7:15AM call Wednesday for the men only, women athletes will have a day off to enjoy the island's many treasures.
MagicSeaWeed, official forecaster for the WSL Europe Qualifying Series events, calls for "Punchy new NNW swell with waves in the head high range and some disruption from an onshore breeze." for Wednesday.