Twelve heats. Three different divisons. The 2nd day of the Azores Airlines Grand Masters Championships won't be forgotten anytime soon.
In 3-5 ft. clean conditions, the women's division (over age 45) got underway for the first time in history. Layne Beachley and Rochelle Ballard were the first competitors in the water. Beachley got things started, earning a 5.33 on her opening wave. And, in the end, Ballard wasn't able to overthrow the 7x World Champ. Luckily, Ballard did win her second heat of the day and both competitors will be advancing to the Semifinals in Azores.
"We got better waves than the guys," said Beachley after her heat win. "I must admit, I was really nervous this morning. It's been 10 years since I've competed in a WSL event. Just watching everyone put a jersey on and surf again has been so fun. I haven't been able to surf with Frieda Zamba since she combo'd me at an event in 1990."
4x World Champ Frieda Zamba powered through her first heat of Round 1 against the 1993 World Champ Pauline Menczer. Zamba earned a massive 9.00 on her second scoring wave to take the heat win (making Round 1 Heat 4 the highest scoring affair on the women's side). While Menczer did lose out to Zamba in Heat 4, she won her first heat of the day against Pam Burridge, allowing both Zamba and Menczer to move onto the Semifinals.
"It's been so awesome to see everyone again," said Zamba. "We've had some good laughs. It's been a good reunion because there's a lot of us that fell out of touch. Us all being here together at this historical event…it's a really good feeling."
After Round 1 of the women's division was completed, the Grand Masters division (over age 55) was up next.
1980s surf star Glen Winton went up against defending event champ Iain Buchanan in what was thought to be deteriorating conditions. Winton proved that wasn't the case. He earned a massive 9.27 (the highest of the event so far) after finding a barrel and unleashing a couple turns - complete with a signature tail slide. It was what everyone had been waiting for - making both the crowd and commentators go crazy.
"I've been here for a while, getting advice from the locals," said Winton. "They've been telling me that if it's offshore, there's tubes. I've put a lot of effort into this contest and I want to win it for my mom."
Sitting in the lobby of the hotel, prior to the event start, Winton was explaining that this event has reignited the flame for him and a lot of the other competitors. After not wearing a jersey for so long, surfing has taken a back seat to other life commitments. But, in an effort to prepare for this event, a lot of the competitors have been getting back into the swing of things - starting up their old workout regimens.
"This event got me training again," continued Winton. "And it feels good".
To close out the day, three heats of the Masters division (over age 45) ran as conditions got trickier.
Despite the fact, a few gems continued to roll through each heat, allowing both California's Shane Beschen and Brazil's Fabio Gouveia to earn 8-point rides.
Overall, it was an inspiring day on the shores of Santa Barbara, São Miguel Island for both surfers and spectators.
Check back tomorrow for the call at 10:30 am. AZOST and watch live on Worldsurfleague.com, App and Facebook.