The 2016 Azores Airlines Pro pres. by Sumol resumed today in three-to-five foot surf, clean and groomed early this morning before the strong onshore breeze deteriorated the lineup and rendered the surfers' task much harder throughout the rest of the day.
Ian Gouveia managed to fend off a hungry Samuel Pupo in an opposition of styles, Gouveia banking his two big scores on power turns while his younger opponent tried to capitalize on his air-game. Fresh off an excellent fourth place in Galicia, Gouveia looked focused on the task at hand to reach another QS6,000 final.
"I want to get in a final so bad because of that fourth place I got in Pantin, now I want to win one!" he said. "It's really tough, this heat was one of the hardest ones, Samuel and I are neighbors now and we pretty much surf together every day. I know Samuel is really strong in the air game and the wind was good for the airs on the rights so I had to do my own thing and thankfully it worked out."
One of the most entertaining surfer of the whole European leg of events, Yago Dora continued his excellent run in Azores, advancing into the quarterfinals to already ensure a career high result in a major Qualifying Series event.
Maxime Huscenot took on former teammate Ramzi Boukhiam (MAR) for his spot in the quarters and managed to reverse the situation in the final moments of their matchup as the Frenchman was in second position since the beginning of the battle. Unable to use his new and improved forehand air game today, the Reunion Island surfer resorted to go traditional with power turns on his backhand.
"There's two completely different waves and when one guy sits on one and you're on the other you can't control what your opponent is doing," he said. "I knew Ramzi on the rights on his backhand was going to be gnarly to beat, but I was pretty confident to surf on my backhand as well and it was just about trying to find the right waves. We've known each other for years, since we met in the Quiksilver team, he's beat me a few times so it was good to get one back, but hopefully next time we have to surf against each other it'll be in the final."
The women's event ran through two rounds of competition after a couple of lay days and decided the event's quarterfinalists as well in the afternoon testing conditions.
Tessa Thyssen came out on top of a really tight battle against Pauline Ado, Maud Le Car and Zoe McDouGall. Each of the four surfers counted a good wave in their scoreboard as they engaged in a battle of the backups, dominated by Thyssen who managed to get another great wave under her belt. Ado fiercely defended her second position and advanced alongside Thyssen into finals day.
"It feels great to make it through, I've been waiting for a few days to surf my first heat so I'm really happy to finally compete and win my heat," Thyssen admitted. "Every next heat is definitely positive in terms of points but I want to be in the final and try to win obviously. I just want to surf because I'm passionate about it, if someday I make the CT I'll be super stoked but for now I'm just enjoying surfing all the time, it's what I want."
Camilla Kemp was the lone Portuguese surfer to advance into the quarters and will carry the nation's hopes for an event title on finals day when the event resumes. The Cascais resident has been collecting strong results for her only second season among the QS crowd and will look to confirm her great form Saturday.
"All the girls were ripping and in these difficult conditions you just have to try and find the better waves out there, I was lucky enough to get two decent waves and made it!" she stated. "I've competed here before in an ISA event and absolutely love the Azores, I feel right at home and people here are very supportive, we may be on an island but we're still in Portugal!"
France's Justine Dupont who has been on a tear on the Qualifying Series in 2016, felt right at home on the long lefts of Monte Verde and easily advanced into the quarters for the eighth time this season. A complete surfer, capable on every type of surfboard, demonstrated she can also adapt to all wave-conditions
"My last heat I thought was a little bit soft and I really wanted to do better this time, I changed boards and felt a lot better in this one so it helped me relax and surf better, I'm super happy with that result," she said.
Mahina Maeda rounded the day's up with an incredible performance, belting an impressive 9 point ride for her flawless approach on a long left-hander.
"The past few events I've been feeling pretty down and haven't been making any heats so it feels great to be back with confidence and surfing well on that wave," she reflected.
Organizers will reconvene at 8:30AM Saturday for a probable final day of competition for both men & women in Monte Verde.
MagicSeaWeed, official forecaster for the WSL Europe Qualifying Series events, calls for "Continuing pulses of mid period swell and generally westerly winds fresh at times. A swell we'd been tracking for this window now looks likely to arrive after the end of competition." for the weekend.