With a dropping swell giving ultra-clean, if slightly underpowered, peaks under sunny skies at Guincho, Lau used a deadly combination of trademark power with progressive flair to overcome the Brazilian.
Dropping a 6.67 just past the halfway mark for a searing layback rail-turn in the pocket, the Hawaiian Championship Tour rookie backed it up with a tail-high air-reverse in the next exchange. He scored a 6.23, taking the lead back after Ferreira had rallied following a shaky start.
"You don't even know how stoked I am right now, I'm so happy," Lau said afterward. "This is pretty much the first year I've even made a heat out here. It's been a long year of learning for me, learning about myself, learning how I like to compete. I think I just realized I'm at my best when I think, 'You know what, it's like any other day, just go out and surf.' That's what's really worked for me out here."
Ferreira had looked deadly throughout the event -- as he had in similar conditions in previous years -- taking on the closeout inside section. But today, with softer, tapering pocket sections on offer, he appeared slightly out of sorts, with precious few genuine oncoming sections to tee-off on. Nevertheless, 2016 Championship Tour Rookie of the Year used all his competitive ardor to get himself with 0.8 points of the Hawaiian, in what proved to be a closely fought, if nervy final.
"It was hard, being out for three months, injured, so of course I'm really happy to be back." said Ferreira, reflecting on an injury sustained while freesurfing on the Gold Coast in March. "This is the third time I've got second place in Portugal, so I hope to one day do one better and take out a win. Congrats to Zeke, thanks everyone for coming."
In terms of the pre-event QS ratings, the pair found themselves both way outside of qualifying contention, with Lau rated 105th and Ferreira, having only competed in one QS event this year, in 97th. The massive points dividend on offer in QS10 000s sees them both rocket up the ratings; Lau to 12th, just outside the all-important Top 10, and Ferreira into 17th. Vulnerable in his current 25th spot on the Jeep Leaderboard in his rookie season, Lau will go to France full of confidence, looking to shake up a season that, aside from an impressive Semi at Bells, hasn't seen him able to get past Round Three.
Despite the event's largest crowd on hand --Thursday is a national holiday in Portugal -- to cheer on local hero, Frederico Morais, the 25-year-old never really got into his stride today, always struggling to find rhythm under dissipating swell conditions, during a Semifinal that Lau completely dominated. Nevertheless, the solid string of heat wins under the Cascais native's belt earned on his way to a third-place finish will only further his confidence, in what's proved an excellent rookie season so far. "It wasn't my day today," reflected Morais, "sometimes it happens that way, Zeke found himself on all the best waves and I never really got going properly. Still, it's always a pleasure competing at home and I want to thank everybody that came out to support us."
Elsewhere, another standout throughout the event, Kanoa Igarashi, found himself opportunity-starved and similarly out of rhythm as his impressive run in what's become his second home came to an end in an underwhelming first Semifinal against Ferreira.
In spite of that, it's been a highly fruitful week in Portugal for the Californian, who leapfrogs Yago Dora to go second in the QS ratings, a get-out-of-jail card he may well need, currently ranked 24th on the Jeep Leaderboard.
Elsewhere, Willian Cardoso and Griffin Colapinto made the biggest strides within the QS Top 10 moving up to 4th and 7th, respectively, while Michael Rodrigues and Michael February both drop four places, to 8th and 9th.
Top 10 Ranked Qualifying Series Surfers After EDP Billabong Pro Cascais
1: Jesse Mendes (BRA) 25,400
2: Kanoa Igarashi (USA) 21,990
3: Yago Dora (BRA) 19,610
4: Willian Cardoso (BRA) 17,550
5: Tomas Hermes (BRA) 17,000
6: Keanu Asing (HAW) 16,950
7: Griffin Colapinto (USA) 16,930
8: Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 15,090
9: Wade Carmichael (AUS) 14,750
9: Michael February (ZAF) 14,750
EDP BILLABONG PRO CASCAIS FINAL RESULTS:
1: Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 12.90
2: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 12.10
EDP BILLABONG PRO CASCAIS SEMIFINAL RESULTS:
SF 1: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 12.67 def. Kanoa Igarashi (USA) 12.30
SF 2: Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 15.27 def. Frederico Morais (PRT) 12.13