SATA Azores Pro by Sumol

Young Guns Rule Opening Day in Sao Miguel

Azores Prime: Round 1 Heats 1-12
Video highlights of the first half of Round 1 at the ASP Prime SATA Azores Pro pres. by Sumol

The ASP Prime-rated SATA Azores Pro pres. by Sumol launched today in hollow waves of 4-to-6 feet at the pristine Praia de Santa Barbara on Sao Miguel Island. Surfers put on an incredible show mixing deep barrel rides and high-performance maneuvers to complete the opening round of competition and reduce the field to 48.

Caio Ibelli (BRA), 20, got the best of the hollow conditions in the morning, clocking the most time in the barrel to post an impressive 9.53 and back it up with another solid score for the win.

Ibelli Caio Ibelli navigated the barrels like no other this morning. - WSL / Damien Poullenot

“I've been here five days already and yesterday the waves got big and I broke all my boards,” Ibelli admitted. “I was kind of bummed, but I went out there and looked for the barrels 'cause I don't feel comfortable doing turns on this board. There's nothing better to get barreled like that early in the morning.”

Sitting in 34th position in the QS rankings, the former ASP World Junior Champion is in need of a big result to improve his position and close the gap with the leaders.

“I got a ninth in Ballito and then lost first round in the US Open,” Ibelli said. “So basically I came here to try and get a good rhythm back and back-up my result. I have no pressure I just want to surf and have fun. I'm going to stick around today and try some boards to get used to them.”

Later in the day, Italo Ferreira (BRA), 19, collected the highest single-wave score for one maneuver, a massive backside rotation landed into the flats for a near-perfect 9.67.

"That's my favorite air," Ferreira commented. "The conditions were perfect for it this afternoon with that little sideshore wind. It is a little dangerous sure but I've been practicing a lot this kind of maneuvers and feel confident I can land them safely.”

Italo Ferreira had the wave of the day, notching a 9.67 on a big air.
Italo Ferreira notches the top score of SATA Azores Pro's opening day with a 9.67 backside reverse rotation.

Event wildcard and the leading junior from Portugal Vasco Ribeiro (PRT), 19, dominated Heat 10, advancing with a three-point difference ahead of current QS leader Matt Banting (AUS), 20.

“I think I got a little bit too excited with the waves so I'm stoked that I got a couple,” Ribeiro said. “I've been watching the previous heats closely and I knew I could get the scores with turns, but, yes, when the occasional barrel came across I went for it.”

Despite living just a couple of hours away on mainland Portugal, Ribeiro admitted his lacking experience in Azores, making his performance even more impressive.

Ribeiro Ribeiro was on fire at Santa Barbara. - WSL / Damien Poullenot

“Some heats go your way, others don't,” he added. “Matt (Banting) is an amazing surfer. Of course I'm happy to beat him this time, but I wouldn't read too much into that. It's just a heat.”

Willian Cardoso (BRA), 28, recent runner-up at the Vans US Open of Surfing, started his Azorean campaign with a solid heat win. The talented Brazilian executed his gameplan to perfection, concentrating on finding clean long waves to perform his signature power turns.

“I feel great, it's a good way to start,” Cardoso said. “I saw a couple barrels this morning but I know they're hard to find and even harder to make, so I looked for turns mainly. That result in California [at the Vans US Open] put me in the race again and gave me a lot of confidence so I hope I can keep at it here and do good again.”

Hiroto Ohhara (JPN), 17, proved in his heat that, in surfing, it ain't over 'til it's over . With only minutes on the clock, the young Japanese was still looking for his first decent score when he started late on a fast righthander. Barely hanging on to his board, Ohhara came flying out of the barrel to collect an 8.67. Having moved into second position, he accomplished a succession of carving maneuvers to turn the lead and advance into first.

“I just got a wave, got barreled and made it through,” Ohhara stated. “I almost fell in the barrel but thankfully my board just kept the line and I made it. Before that wave I was starting to get nervous, I wanted to paddle over to another peak and couldn't find the right ones, so I guess I got lucky. Azores remind me of Niijima a little bit, it's very similar and I love it here.”

As the first event of the Portuguese Waves Series - Cascais Trophy, the SATA Airlines Azores Pro will play a vital role in crowning the series champion and awarding the additional $50,000 bonus. The following two events will be the ASP Prime Cascais Billabong Pro, and Moche Rip Curl Pro Peniche WCT.

You can watch the event LIVE and DVR here on ASP.