The World Surf League (WSL) Barbados Surf Pro Qualifying Series (QS) 3,000 was called back on today for the men's competition, while a lay day was called for the women's, at Drill Hall Beach. In steady 2-4' trade wind-swell, under variable conditions throughout the day, the top seed in the men's event made their debut.
The final heats of the day saw a change in the wind direction, with rare offshores grooming the lineup. Along with the aqua color of the water and glassy faces, a new swell filled in. With this new look, Heat 14 of Round 3 saw some of the best performances of the day, including Davey Cathels who posted the highest single wave score, a 9.40 (out of a possible 10.00). But it was Brazilian Weslley Dantas who took the heat win narrowly ahead of Cathels, with a 15.83 point heat total.
"I got two little starter waves at the beginning of the heat and worked my way back into first priority and then I just waited," said Cathels of the situation leading up to his top score. "As soon as I saw the wave coming down the reef, there was no question whether I'd go or not. It was a beautiful wave, just flawless. It's my first time here and I'm really enjoying myself in Barbados. What a cool spot."
Coming into the event having just won his first QS event at the Ron Jon Quiksilver Pro QS 1,000, local representative Josh Burke was intent on his heat strategy. Sticking to his game plan was critical for him to drop one of the highest wave scores of the day, an 8.67, for a series of major maneuvers on an overhead set. The 20-year-old is hitting his competitive stride in 2018, currently ranked No. 23 on the QS, and he is feeling confident at home and familiar with the break at Drill Hall.
"I like to sit deep here, so I made sure to be the furthest up the reef at the start. Everyone ended up catching waves before me, so I got first priority and waited for about twelve minutes," said Burke. "I was getting a little stressed, but I told myself to cool down and a set will come eventually. No one had really posted a big score, so the heat was still wide open, and I just waited for the wave. Really that's all I want, just get waves in my heats so I can surf and show everyone what I'm capable of. Today was good for that."
Coming into the event as a top seed, Brazilian Victor Bernardo posted one of the highest heat totals of the day, a 14.83 in Round 3, Heat 3. The high flying 21-year-old is well known for his progressive maneuvers, but today he stuck to the fundamentals, exercising great competitive strategy and power-based surfing.
"I felt great during the heat and especially with priority," said Bernardo, following the heat victory. "The freesurf sessions have been so busy, so finally being out there with less people and being able to get into position was nice. I waited for a while to go on one that looked good. Then I got back out there and got first priority and got a set to drop the 8.83. I'm really happy about that.
"Last year I had a tough year, with an injury and then missing some events because of that," Bernardo continued during his post heat interview. "I'm still building my strength and confidence back from that, but it's happening. It's so important to keep your head in the right space, so that I'm focused on making heats and not being distracted. I just want to show my surfing and have fun at the events, and I hope that it keeps bringing me heat wins."
Former Championship Tour (CT) competitor Nat Young from Santa Cruz, CA opened his campaign today at Drill Hall Beach in full force. With a full QS schedule in the cards for 2018, Young is traveling to new surf destinations, Barbados included, and enjoying his time on the road.
"It's rare that we surf a left like this in a contest, but it's fair since last week we surfed a right in Martinique, and that's cool," said Young. "As a goofyfoot, I always like going left and I'm enjoying myself at these new venues. Really, I came because I'd never really been to the Caribbean before and I wanted to check it out. It's so nice to be able to come to such a beautiful place for a contest.
Fellow veteran and former CT competitor, 28-year-old Brazilian Alejo Muniz brought a different strategy than most to the lineup today, after paying close attention to prior heats that suffered inconsistent waves during their 25-minute clashes.
"I was really paying attention to the two heats before mine," explained Muniz. "My brother was in one of them, and he was needing a really small score, and nothing came. I didn't want that to happen to me, so my plan was to go out there and ride anything that moved. I never want to start a heat with a four, but I don't want to think I could have already gotten it if I still needed it in the end. Luckily the waves just started to come and we all got a lot of chances and I was happy with my scores."
The new father is also coming back from a series of injuries over recent years and feeling as good as he has in a while. Currently ranked No. 4 on the QS, following a runner-up finish at the Vissla Sydney Surf Pro QS 6,000 earlier this month, Muniz is pain-free and looking for heat wins.
"I'm feeling amazing. I just became a father to a little boy, two months ago," said Muniz. "It's been the best time of my life. I'm pain-free, which is incredible. I've been dealing with pain the last two years, after my surgery. Last year I was close to qualifying, but I wasn't feeling good. It's so much better for me this year and I'm just going to try to keep going and win as much as I can."
Playing the ever-present underdog role is 19-year-old Chauncey Robinson from Melbourne Beach, FL. With three heats under his belt so far, Robinson put together his best performance today to finish ahead of top seeded surfer, Moroccan Ramzi Boukhiam, who also advanced through in second position.
"I'm super stoked and feel like I'm building a bit of momentum in each heat," said Robinson, after his Round 3 win. "Surfing against the top seeds is really exciting for me. Having watched them in all the webcasts over the last few years, I'm really inspired by their surfing and just psyched to come out on top of that one.
"I actually blew priority twice," admitted Robinson. "There were two waves I went for, that didn't work out. Luckily, I was able to separate from the pack a little bit and catch the best wave of the heat with only a few minutes left, which put me in first."
Event organizers will reconvene for tomorrow's 7:30 a.m. AST call to determine an 8:00 a.m. start for the men's Round 4 or women's Round 2.