After a two-and-a-half day hiatus due to inclement conditions, involving a few laps of Lisbon's celebrated Cascais coastline and a couple of close calls at the main venue of Carcavelos, the EDP Billabong Pro Cascais finally got back underway in the early afternoon today to finish off the remaining heats of Round Four and decide the man-on-man duels. With just 16 surfers remaining in the draw, seven of them from the Championship Tour, expect competition in the closing stages to be as brutal as late afternoon wind at Guincho.
Frederico Morais kept his run through his hometown event alive via a combination of controlled aggression and lineup savvy. As familiar with every nook and crevice of the beach at Guincho as the proverbial back of his hand, it was in fact two timely heelside rail digs of his highly effective backhand attack that bore enough fruit to see him advance ahead of QS No.6 Tomas Hermes to a secure an enticing Round Five matchup with fellow Eurostar, Leonardo Fioravanti.
"It's pretty hard," admitted the World No. 11. "But there are opportunities out there. Let's hope conditions improve for tomorrow," he continued, echoing the surf world's collective sentiment.
Scoreboard-wise, QS leader Jesse Mendes was the standout of the afternoon's encounters, surfing with typical polish to see his way through a heat in ever-deteriorating conditions and post a 13.33-point heat total in the process. While Deputy Commissioner Travis Logie had only just, some half an hour earlier, stated his intention to run all the way through until dark and get as many Round Five heats surfed as possible, clearly Mother Nature had other ideas. The wind whistled ferociously around mainland Europe's most westerly point just north of the contest site, taking the sea state from white horses to more of a whitewater stampede.
"I had to change to my step-up board, it's got way more drive," Mendes said of a timely last-minute equipment change to deal with the increased juice. "On my normal board I would've been too loose out there, so I was pretty stoked to have made the switch and grab a couple of scores."
With a powerful sweep dragging up the beach against the incoming wind chop, most competitors were by now opting for a run-around lap on the sand after riding longer lefthanders. That let them use the rip under the cliffs to re-position in the lineup rather than fight the energy taxing drift.
It also provided a lightly comedic moment on an otherwise hard-to-love afternoon, with coaches running alongside their charges, offering advice and insight on the hop. Among them was Quiksilver pit boss, former Pipe Master and J-Bay champion, Jake Paterson, who seemingly used the in-heat coaching session to full advantage, seeing all three of his surfers this afternoon -- Leo Fioravanti, Zeke Lau and Griffin Colapinto -- advance. For all professional surfing's widely lauded operating procedures, the sight of coaches cantering alongside their talent live on broadcast, trying to retain an air of dignity whilst imparting crucial tactical information, is surely yet another.
"It's almost unsurfable out here," admitted a discouraged Logie, announcing the call to finish today's hostilities after the completion of the round. "Let's come back and see what tomorrow has in store for us."
With some eye-catching matchups, ever-higher stakes, and fingers crossed, lighter winds, on the eve of the penultimate day of the waiting period in Cascais, crunch time is upon us.
EDP Billabong Pro Cascais Round Four Results:
Heat 5: Frederico Morais (PRT) 11.33 Tomas Hermes (BRA) 10.84 Ethan Ewing (AUS) 10.34
Heat 6: Willian Cardoso (BRA) 11.17 Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 10.43 Maxime Huscenot (FRA) 8.90
Heat 7: Jesse Mendes (BRA) 13.33 Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 9.97 Ryan Callinan (AUS) 9.50
Heat 8: Alejo Muniz (BRA) 10.40 Griffin Colapinto (USA) 10.00 Nat Young (USA) 8.83
Watch the final rounds of the EDP Billabong Pro Cascais tomorrow at 7:30a.m. local time (11:30pm PDT).