GRANDE PLAGE, Lacanau / France - The fourth day of competition in Lacanau didn't disappoint, with excellent surfing in waves of three-to-four feet. The ASP 5-Star Soöruz Lacanau Pro ran through eight heats deciding the 16 surfers who still have a shot at the prestigious Lacanau trophy.
Maxime Huscenot (FRA) 22, current No. 23 on the Qualification Series (QS) rankings, is fresh off of a fifth place finish at the Vans US Open of Surfing and came out on top of the first heat of the day. Up against good friends and traveling companions Marc Lacomare (FRA), Frederico Morais (PRT) and Gony Zubizarreta (ESP), Huscenot worked his magic to find the winning score in the last seconds of their exchange.
"Super happy to take this one, it was a tough heat," Huscenot said. "On tour we're all supporting each other so it's not easy to eliminate your friends from competition. Even though low tide seems to offer more potential with that long right, we've been surfing in the early heats everyday on the high tide and we've had fun waves closer to shore."
One of the more popular surfers this week in Lacanau, Huscenot has been engaging with fans on and off the beach, leading a promotional campaign with his sponsor.
"I'm stoked to give back to the people who support us all year," he continued. 'Sosh and I wanted to do something special here -- it's our only contest in France. They're really active on the social networks and I love to work with them and find new ideas to promote ourselves and our sport. I'm giving away some of my stuff here and it's great to see some people's happy faces when they win.â€
Steven Pierson (PYF) 30, qualified for the Round of 16 alongside fellow Tahitian Heremoana Luciani (PYF). The two Polynesian surfers continued to out-surf their competition with powerful gauges and a great read on the changing conditions.
â€œI spent a lot of time trying to figure out the conditions," Pierson said. "I closely watched the last 10 minutes of the previous heat and noticed those lefts that started breaking. I got the two bigger sets that broke wide and managed to surf good on my backhand."
A past winner of the 3-Star event in Galicia, Pierson admits to dreaming of taking out a bigger QS event. Humble and aware of the level of performance in Lacanau, he knows the road ahead is tough but will try to advance heat by heat into the final stages of the competition.
"Obviously winning is on everyone's mind," Pierson said. â€œThere are a few international surfers here but not all of them, so we hope to take advantage of local knowledge. I'm stoked to see all the Europeans do so well and especially Heremoana (Luciani) who's ripping too.â€
Jack Freestone (AUS) 22, is one of only four international surfers remaining in contention in Lacanau. The two-time World Junior Champion, now in the hunt for a coveted spot on the Samsung Galaxy ASP World Championship Tour, took command of Heat 7 and advanced ahead of California's Tanner Gudauskas (USA).
â€œI thought I was in third or fourth, and walking up the beach hearing everyone's scores I thought, 'Oh my god am I actually getting knocked out?'â€ Freestone commented. "It's scary, we have really high and low tides and it feels like it's changing every 20 minutes."
"That was a big heat for me, Vasco (Ribeiro) and Alex (Ribeiro) surf really well," Fioravanti stated. "I decided to let them do their thing and stay on the side. I was lucky enough to find a couple good waves at the end there. I'm super happy to get through this one."
Fioravanti has built himself a strong entourage and coaching crew with the help of pro surfer Jake Paterson (AUS), former Pipe Masters winner, and the work the two have undertaken seems to have lifted Fioravanti's game.
"Jake was one of the best surfers in the world for a long time, and probably the most intelligent one," Fioravanti said. "We've known each other for a while but only started working together recently and I'm stoked to have him on my side. His insights on everything from placement in the lineup to technical feedback and wave selection are priceless."