More swell in the water meant more action at the Vans Pro Men's Qualifying Series (QS) 3,000. Two-to-three foot windswell provided plenty of opportunity for surfers throughout the day with new talents and seasoned QS veterans rising to the occasion. But, a growing storm front and deteriorating conditions forced event organizers to call the event off for the day after the completion of Round Three, Heat 10.
Stevie Pittman blasted his way through both Rounds Two and Three with powerful surfing in the deteriorating afternoon conditions -- still finding an 8.17 (out of a possible 10). The North Carolina native finds himself back in the competitive groove after undergoing knee surgery last fall. Pittman is also into the Vans Pro Junior Quarterfinals and did battle with former Pro Junior competitor Kei Kobayashi in a tight Round Three bout where Kobayashi earned his own excellent 8.10. But, in the end it was Pittman who came out with a win and both advanced into Round Four.
"I've won this event a few times as an amateur and I love it here in Virginia Beach," Pittman said. "Normally I come to contests a few days before to practice, but I just came in the night before this one and surfed my heats the next day. Before this event I lost in the Sweetwater contest and I was just over it -- my boards didn't feel good and I wasn't doing well in small waves. But, I got my head wrapped around it and came here, and everything's been good since then. It's only a three and a half hour drive from my house so I feel right at home here on the East Coast -- I enjoy it a lot and I'm always comfortable here."
But, the best of Round Three followed when Vitor Mendes earned a near-perfect 9.00, the highest single-wave score of the event so far, to begin his Vans Pro campaign just two heats later. The light-footed Brazilian took full advantage of his spry surfing and zipped through each section with speed, power and flow before finishing off at the shoreline. Mendes draws experience and confidence from his older brother, current QS No. 1 Jesse Mendes, and wants to begin his own path to success in his first full year as QS competitor.
"Right when the heat started I found one of the biggest waves of the day and just got six or seven turns on it -- I don't know how that happened," Mendes said. "I've been doing a lot of QS events with the help of my sponsors and my brother, and I'm looking to get into the QS10,000 in Cascais with a result here. It's good to be back here where I get good waves, I got a few 9-point rides on the East Coast last year and I'm just so happy to make that heat. My board is just feeling great and I'm staying with all my friends so I feel at home which helps so much."
Pedro Todaro provided one of the heftier upsets of Round Three's proceedings by eliminating Cam Richards and former Championship Tour (CT) competitor Nathaniel Curran. The 31-year-old, Rio, Brazil, native now resides in San Clemente, California, and is just getting his QS career on the move -- taking part of a full North America season when expenses allow. Todaro's on his way to a good result after making it through Rounds Two and Three, but now must hold his own against the top seeds in Round Four when competition resumes.
"I'm just so happy to make those heats today and this event is really important to me being my first QS3,000," Todaro said. "I'm not a kid anymore so taking on these up-and-coming kids is really hard with their level so high now. That last heat I just knew where to sit and found those two good scores to get the job done. We have a big crew of Brazilians here which helps me stay motivated and strong through this event, and into the next one in North Carolina. I really want to make the next heat and just keep going with the same things I'm doing now -- choose the right waves and use my priority well."
Up-and-coming talent Kade Matson continues his winning form from the Vans US Open of Surfing Pro Junior, earning a Finals appearance, into the Vans Pro QS3,000. Matson fell just shy of a Quarterfinals in the Vans Pro Junior, but earned a spot into Round Four of the QS3,000 today after a brilliant Round Three performance. The 15-year-old's surfing is groomed on the iconic cobblestone break of Lower Trestles, but still manages to find his rhythm in the trickier conditions here in Virginia Beach -- earning a solid 14.00 heat total.
"This is my first bigger QS and to be doing good so far feels amazing," Matson said. "I think in these heats you really want to be a part of the first exchange because having a good score under your belt can build momentum for the rest of the heat. To prepare for an event like this at home I usually like to surf T-Street because it has a lot of similarities to 1st Street Jetty. It feels really good to be able to get all of this experience from these heats and use all the knowledge I gain as I get older."
Event organizers will reconvene in the morning to make a 7:30 a.m. EDT call for a possible 8:00 a.m. EDT start.
The Vans Pro Men's QS3,000 and Pro Junior will run August 22 through 27 in coordination with the historical East Coast Surfing Championships (ECSC) -- the world's second-longest running contest, now in its 55th year, behind Bells Beach.