SATA Airlines Azores Pro

Mendes Wins SATA Azores Pro

Jesse Mendes (BRA), 21, has won the ASP Prime SATA Azores Pro pres. by Sumol, defeating Joan Duru (FRA), 25, in an exciting 35-minute final. Mendes also takes an early lead in the Portuguese Waves Series - Cascais Trophy, part of the ASP Qualification Series (QS). The three-event series that includes Azores, the Cascais Billabong Pro and the Moche Rip Curl Pro Peniche, and offers a bonus $50,000 to the overall winner.

Surfers turned on the crowds with an opening exchange right at the buzzer. Duru took off first, closely followed by Mendes, the advantage going to Mendes with a 7.50 against Duru's 6.17. The talented Brazilian, carrying momentum from his Semifinal performance, quickly backed it up with a 6.17 to take an early command of the Final.

The two hungry QS campaigners took the battle to the next level when the split a peak, Duru on the right, Mendes on the left, but, ultimately, both fell short of improving their situation. After a brief lull in action, the Brazilian added a 7.03 to put Duru in a difficult position. Not feeling the pressure, the Frenchman launched into a straight frontside air to try and reduce his requirement. In the meantime Mendes selected a beautiful wave on his forehand, nailing two big turns for an excellent 8.33 and solidifying his event victory.

Jesse Mendes (BRA) Mendes went all out to win the event, taking maximum risks. - WSL / Damien Poullenot

"I stuck to my plan that's all," Mendes said. "These past two years I've been thinking too much about what the other guys were doing. Now I've matured a lot, and given the waves I knew I could do it so I just surfed, that's what I love to do. I'm so psyched, this win is huge for me and I want to keep this momentum now going into the next events. We're like brothers with the other Brazilians, we travel around the world together and it's amazing to have their support right now."

With a runner-up finish in Azores, France's Duru jumps into the lead in the European QS title race, with a narrow margin over Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA), 16, before the final event in Cascais next month.

Joan Duru (FRA) Duru pulled out all the stops in the Final - WSL / Damien Poullenot

“If I was told before this event that I'd get second I would have been stoked, but right now I feel a little gutted 'cause I couldn't really express myself in the Final,” Duru commented. “I used to go into events telling myself I could maybe make one or two heats, but this is a game-changer. I feel much more confident and hopefully I can keep going good until the end of the year.”

In the first Semifinal, Mendes picked off great waves to start building a good scoreboard in the opening minutes, while Ricardo Christie (NZL), 25, wasted a few tries on waves offering no potential. The Kiwi eventually spotted a good lefthander and performed two big turns to bank a 7.50 and launch his campaign. Quickly backing it up with a 4.00, Christie tied the heat totals at 11.50. Mendes rapidly picked off a good left of his own, performing a critical turn under the lip for a 7.43 and the win. Christie placed equal thrid, collecting 4,225 ranking points in the process.

Ricardo Christie (NZL) Christie only just began to launch his QS assault in Azores. - WSL / Damien Poullenot

“It was really tough to find the right waves, and I fell off on one where I could have maybe gotten the score,” Christie said. “I still had fun and I'm stoked for my result. I haven't really thought of the rankings scenario just yet, but I'll sure start looking at things and possibilities. I have a couple more days here and I'm just going to enjoy myself, it's such a beautiful place.”

In a very slow encounter, half of the second Semifinal went by without Yadin Nicol (AUS), 28, or Duru taking action. When conditions improved, the Australian capitalized on a righthander and moved into pole position. Needing only a small requirement, Duru multiplied his attempts, eventually catching the winning ride. The Australian nets his season-best result of an equal third in Sao Miguel.

Yadin Nicol (AUS) Nicol nets his season-best result. - WSL / Damien Poullenot

"It was frustrating out there but you know we're all in the same boat and hats off to Joan," Nicol stated. "I'm stoked with how this week turned out, I'd like to go one better but I got some points out of it and I'm coming back to Portugal for more in October.”

The second event of the Portuguese Waves Series - Cascais Trophy is the ASP Prime Cascais Billabong Pro, which runs from October 7-11, 2014.