After beginning the event window with a lay day due to strong winds, conditions improved dramatically to the delight of the athletes competing at the 2017 Rip Curl Pro Argentina. The day started off with Round 1 of the Men's QS 1500 with a light offshore breeze, waves in the 3-5 foot range (1-1.5 meters), and plenty of scoring opportunities on the peaky lefts and rights at Playa Grande in Mar del Plata.
Sebastian Olarte (URY) took full advantage of the conditions to start off Heat 1 with a quick lead after catching a solid wave to earn a 7.25 from the judges, and then quickly backed it up with a 6.85 for a 14.10 total. By advancing into Round 2, Olarte will face Leandro Usuña, who grew up surfing in Mar del Plata and is also the 2016 WSL South America Regional Champion.
"I left Uruguay a week ago to arrive here early to get some practice in Mar del Plata and I think that it really paid off," said Olarte. "The waves were really good in my heat, so I just focused on trying to get two good ones and hopefully I can continue that strategy all the way to the Final."
Jose Francisco (BRA) led the charge for the latest group of up-and-comers from Brazil to take the victory in Heat 6 of Round 1. Francisco scored the day's highest single wave score of an 8.50 after ripping apart a long lefthander. He later tacked on a 6-point ride for a 14.50 total, the day's highest total heat score in Round 1. Advancing alongside Francisco into Round 2 was Sebastian Ventura (ARG).
"I'm from Brazil, so I feel a little cold now, but I felt really good in my heat. I'm really happy that I was able to get two good waves and that I made it past the first round," Francisco said in his post heat interview under an overcast sky. "This is my second time here in Mar del Plata and I feel like I brought the right equipment to compete in these kinds of waves."
To the delight of the crowd, in the final heat of the day of the Men's division, the battle went down to the wire with Lucas Santamaria (ARG) and Nicolas Hermida (ARG) taking the advancing positions over Brazilians Fernando Junior and Marcus Cintra. Santamaria was able to take off on a wave in the dying moments to jump from 4th to 1st place in Heat 8.
"That last wave really saved me," said Santamaria. "Even though there were plenty of waves, it was kind of hard to figure out which ones were going to close out and which were the ones that were going to open up. But luckily that wave came right at the end and I was able to get the score to advance. I've been surfing here for a long time, so it's a relief to get the win in front of all my friends here on the beach."
Following completion of Men's Round 1, the Rip Curl Pro Argentina jumped straight into the first ever Women's QS 1000 in Mar del Plata.
Dominic Barona (ECU) began the contest on a strong note by winning Heat 1 with a total of 12.35 points to advance along with Marina Rezende (BRA), the young surfer from Florianopolis. Barona, who was crowned the 2011 WSL South America Regional Champion is a big fan of Mar del Plata and is happy to be back.
"Mar del Plata is such a beautiful place," said Barona. "The waves are great and I love competing here. All the girls are surfing so well and I had some trouble paddling against the current that got really strong, so I'm happy that I made it into the next round. I've been training hard to do well on the QS this year and I hope I can get some good results."
In Heat 2 of Round 1, Lucia Cosoleto (ARG) raised the bar by scoring a 7.60 and a 5.00 on her two best rides for a 12.60 total. Yanca Costa (BRA) advanced closely behind, while Flavia Cianciuralo (ARG) was eliminated from competition.
"The waves are great today and I love surfing in these types of conditions," Cosoleto said. "This is the first ever Women's QS event in Argentina, so I'm psyched to be competing in an international event at home. I want to take advantage of this opportunity and get a good result here."
The two-time WSL South America Regional Champion Anali Gomez from Peru felt right at home in Mar del Plata and was able to display here patented forehand hacks on the lefts. However, her poor wave choice left her only with a 10.75 heat total. On the other hand, Camila Cassia (BRA) showed that she was not intimidated by her opponents, chose the best waves and stormed to the lead after scoring a 7.50 and a 5.90 for the day's highest heat wave total of a 13.40.
"I'm so stoked that I was able to surf well and find the right waves, even though the water is pretty cold," stated Cassia. "I'm from Ubatuba in São Paulo where the waves are really good too, but a lot warmer. It's my first time to Argentina and I hope I can keep up the same pace in the upcoming round."
A call is set for 8:00 am local time for continuation of the 2017 Rip Curl Pro Argentina Men's QS 1500 and Women's QS 1000. These are the first events of the year on the WSL South America Calendar and will determine who will take the lead in the WSL South America rankings.