On Saturday, a new pulse sent solid waves in the 6-foot range (2 meters) barreling down the line at El Gringo for Day 5 of the WSL Men's QS 3,000 Maui and Sons Arica Pro Tour. Pristine swell conditions and little to no wind kept the waves glassy all morning with loads of spray coming out of the bombs at the Chilean Pipeline.
Rounds 4 and 5 were completed today, establishing which athletes will make their final push for the winner's podium on Sunday. The ‘go big or go home' motto proved to be a blueprint for success as the largest, deepest tuberides scored well into the excellent range (8-10 points).
No one fared better than last year's event winner, Tomas Tudela (PER), who earned a 9.00 and a 9.33 on two heaving lefthand barrels. On both rides, the Peruvian came pumping from behind the peak and got cleanly spat out for an 18.33 total.
"I came to Arica this year with a completely different mentality, not relying solely on my instincts," said Tudela. "I think you need to take that first step psychologically if you want to become one of the best at what you do. I've been following all my strategies heat by heat and it's been paying off. I just want to give a big thanks to all my friends and family that have been showing me so much support."
Advancing in 2nd place behind Tudela was last year's Runner-Up, Dean Bowen (AUS), who earned the days second-highest heat wave total of 16.24. The Australian will now face Vitor Mendes (BRA), who scored a 15.10 in his Round 5 victory and moved into the Quarterfinals with Jacob Wilcox (AUS) that received a 14.20 from the judges.
"The waves are really good today. It's not too small and not too big, it's just perfect," said Mendes. "I knew it was going to be a difficult heat, so I just decided to wait for the best sets. I got that one right at the beginning for a 7.33, then just sat outside for that bomb that came at the end."
Vitor commented on the past success of his brother Jessé, who won the Maui and Sons event in 2014 and how that helped him take a step closer to a spot on the Championship Tour.
"It's a dangerous wave, but I really like it a lot. When my brother won, my Mom didn't let me compete here because I was too young (laughs). Now that I'm older, it would be great to follow in my brother's footsteps and win the contest here in Arica," concluded Mendes.
Carlos Munoz (CRI) continued his hot streak by finding the best barrels in Heat 3 of Round 5. The Costa Rican has first-hand experience of how dangerous El Gringo can be after suffering a horrific accident several years ago that left him with nasty facial lacerations and a few broken teeth. The always-upbeat Munoz however looks forward to catching the best barrels that Arica can offer.
"Oh man, I'm so stoked to make it out of that round and into the Quarterfinals," Munoz said. "On my first wave I got caught in the barrel and ended up hitting my head on the reef. I got a little scared, but luckily it was nothing serious. But that helped me to focus, stay calm and find the right waves to go on. Everything went flat at the end and I was in 3rd place, but that great wave came and I got that nice barrel for the score."
In the last heat of the day, the 2016 WSL South America Champion, Leandro Usuna (ARG) air-dropped into a super deep section that looked impossible to make, getting blown out with the spray for a 9.63, the highest score of the day. Usuna backed it up with a mid-range score with Weslley Dantas (BRA) also grabbing exciting tuberides to advance in 2nd place. Eliminated from competition were some of the event standouts: Aritz Aranburu (ESP), Nicolas Vargas (CHL), Torrey Meister (HAW) and the Saquarema legends Raoni Monteiro (BRA) and Lucas Chianca (BRA).
A call is set for 7:00 am local time for Heat 1 of the Quarterfinals where Vitor Mendes (BRA) will take on Dean Bowen (AUS).