Solid, consistent surf at Guincho and a massive day of heats saw some incredible performances and huge results at the Billabong Pro Cascais pres. by Allianz. A cluster of Brazilians survived to fight another day, along with Stu Kennedy, Brett Simpson, Tanner Gudauskas, Jack Freestone and Matt Banting.
"It is detonating out there!" said Strider while watching the Billabong Pro Cascais surfers trying to attack that notorious Guincho inside section. With some solid sets and big open faces coming through, the judging criterion was laid out for the day as ‘surfers need to perform combinations, of major moves, with absolute completion, to get the scores.'
We know that Stu Kennedy can get his fair share of combinations out there, and he showed some of his best combos against Bino Lopes in Heat 6 of the second round.
There have been many eyes on Stu Kennedy and his breakout year thus far. He was a doubtful starter at this event, and you just needed to have a look at his Facebook feed to see that he recently became a very proud Dad of a cute baby girl. He must have had a tough decision to head on out to Portugal leaving his wife and a brand new daughter behind, but here he is, ripping.
Starting off the season as a replacement surfer, (he filled in for Owen Wright) he is currently ranked 19th on the Championship Tour, and is looking like he's firmly in the mix as a rookie of the year. Currently two spots behind Caio Ibelli, the current Rookie Of The Year leader, he is very much in the conversation.
Another surfer who is in the qualification conversation is Bino Lopes from Brazil. Currently 10th on the QS ratings, Lopes impressed all in Durban while ripping at the Ballito Pro, and his polished surfing saw him get the nod, along with Kennedy, while Nomme Mignot and Taylor Clark were eliminated.
Of huge interest in this event is Brett Simpson. He was a giant killer as a wildcard in the Hurley Pro at Trestles, eliminating Michel Bourez, John John Florence and Matt Wilkinson along the way, messing with the world title race and slipping back onto the radar as a result. His 2nd round heat was a crazy affair, with the 4 positions changing back and forth after every wave demolished. CT surfer and Jeep Leaderboard ranked 17th surfer Caio Ibelli was trailing the heat towards the end when he picked up an absolute bomb and ripped it to pieces with huge turns, hooks and carves, with great variety, to jump straight up into first place after what was the best wave of a good heat and a deserved 8.27.
Simpo dropped into third after Caio's wave, but he's a seasoned competitor and a fighter with nerves of steel. He managed to sneak in another wave to dodge that 2nd round bullet and jump up to second place, and thus advance through along with Ibelli.
"I tried to surf my best and tried to fit as many turns in the pocket as I could, and it worked, and I'm so happy I made my heat," said a very excited Ibelli after the heat. "Hopefully I can get a good rhythm here and take it on to the beach breaks of France."
The other giant-killer from the Hurley Pro at Trestles was Tanner Gudauskas who made it all the way through to the semi-finals, eliminating Gabriel Medina along the way. He had Connor O'Leary as well as Brazilian surfer Willian Cardoso in this heat, along with Portuguese surfer Marlon Lipke.
Tanner has always been part of the surfing universe, and he's a happy surfer. After power-dog Willian Cardoso took the lead in the beginning, Tanner and QS ratings board 2nd placed Connor O'Leary started building up scores to catch up and claim first and second respectively. Tanner is most definitely in a confidence roll-over from his excellent result at Trestles, and at 31st on the QS rankings, he is most definitely competing for a qualification run. Two big results and he will shoot up the QS rankings, and if he keeps rolling with this level of confidence then he could easily do something big before the year runs out. O'Leary on the other hand will definitely be on the Championship Tour at 2nd spot on the rankings. He just needs to get through a few more heats to keep the momentum going, and both Tanner and Connor are comfortable in Hawaii.
Matt Banting from Australia is also in a crucial position, placed at 31 in the Championship Tour. His easiest route to re-qualification is through a couple of big results in the remaining 10,000 QS events. His last second win with an on-form David Do Carmo would have been a massive relief, and impetus to A-game the rest of this event.
In heat 20 Brazilian goofy-footer Krystian Kymerson opened up with three air moves on his first wave, and after a see-saw heat and needing a 6.07 he sneaked a last wave on the buzzer and launched into the air for a full rotation followed by a series of cutbacks and close-out tag to score the exact required points. He advanced in second place with fellow Brazilian surfer Thiago Camarao in first, and the vaunted Davey Cathels and Billy Stairmand were eliminated.
This result was just a little piece of the incredible backstory of the day - an amazing Brazilian storm of results with Hizunome Bettero, Caio Ibelli, Victor Bernardo, Ian Gouveia, Deivid Silva, Thiago Camarao all winning their heats, with Alejo Muniz, Bino Lopez, Marco Fernandez, Heitor Alves, Italo Ferreira, David de Carmo, Tomas Hermes, Krystian Kymerson also all advancing with second places in their heats respectively.