Date: Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Schedule: Round 1 (Heats 1-12)
Conditions: 4-to-6 feet at Supertubos
Get wave-by-wave score breakdowns with the ASP Heat Analyzer
Having never won a Round 1 heat on home turf, it was local hero Tiago Pires who had the most pressure going into the final heat of the day. The season has been a tough one for him, with an injury early in 2014 and a ninth-place finish his best so far. At Supertubos Tuesday, he was clearly hungry, pushing hard and making the most of unpredictable waves. He had stiff competition though in Owen Wright, who used his above-the-lip skills to stay close on Pires's heels. Nat Young started strong too, notching a seven-pointer.
Ultimately it was Wright who found open faces and little ramps among the shifting peaks. He worked his air-reverses to overtake Pires and move into the lead. From there, Wright's momentum snowballed, as he mixed it up with tail slides, laybacks and solid carves. He won the heat, and sent his opponents into the sudden-death Round 2.
The all-Aussie heat didn't showcase these surfers' abilities for most of the 30 minutes. Like many of the Round 1 heats, finding the right wave in tricky conditions was key, as tubes closed out and lips crumbled unexpectedly, limiting scoring potential.
Bede Durbidge was the first to find a barrel that would stay open, putting a 7.33 on his scoreline and taking a modest lead based on his two-wave total. Josh Kerr answered back soon after, finding a 7.90 of his own. As Kerr and Dion Atkinson tallied small scores, Durbidge held the lead for the majority of the battle.
It was in the final few minutes though that things really got started: Both Atkinson and Kerr scratched to find bigger scores. It was Kerr who came out on top, pulling off a seven-pointer to edge out Durbidge and win the heat by fewer than two points.
"I started way up the beach, and lucked into a nice little barrel," Kerr said. "Just shows you you've got to keep your head in the game, anything can happen. You know in conditions like this you can turn it around quickly."
Heat 10 was stacked with surfers who are adept both below and above the lip. Despite the promise of new-school maneuvers though -- and Kolohe Andino's famed air game, in particular -- midrange scores dotted the leaderboard throughout. Miguel Pupo held the lead with a four- and a five-pointer, with Adam Melling close behind and Andino struggling to post a solid score.
With just a few minutes left, Andino and Melling were still working to overtake Pupo. Andino threw an air reverse for a four-pointer, which didn't lift him out of third. Melling was next to make a move, putting down a strong, backhand performance as the closing horn sounded. The ride got him close -- but not close enough. One tenth of a point separated him from Pupo, who took a trip straight to Round 3.
"It's pretty hard out there," Pupo said. "I changed my plan."
Explaining strategy for a three-man heat, he said, "It's harder. I saw Kolohe was going big every single turn. It's pretty hard to land airs right now because the wave is pretty hollow. So I let him go, because he was going too big. So I came close to Adam, because Adam was ...probably on the same plane as me."
After a season of mixed results, Jordy Smith has seen success in the tail-end of the season, kickstarting the turnaround with a win at the Hurley Pro. Paddling out in Peniche, he quickly got out in front with a seven-pointer. The ride featured Smith's signature combo of power and finesse. Tour rookie Mitch Crews stayed on Smith's heels, until the South African threw a massive rotation, landing rock-and-roll style on the lip and riding out. The maneuver earned Smith a 9.27, solidifying his spot at the front of the pack.
Ace Buchan trailed them both, tallying just minor scores throughout the heat. Smith's seeming free-surf session continued, as he showed off the loose, new-school style that put him on the map. He kept his grip on the lead through to the end, taking the win and sending Buchan and Crews to Round 2.
"It's really tricky out there. The wave picked up out the back gave me a lot of speed. ...I threw caution to the wind, and ended up sticking it. I surprised myself, hopped off and hoped the judges liked it. I'm taking each contest as it comes. I thinks that probably what I needed to do -- relax a bit more and not take things so seriously."
Alejo Muniz won the opening exchange with a number of clean carves. But soon Adriano De Souza impressed the judges with one powerful maneuver for a 6.33. Julian Wilson matched De Souza's keeper with his signature progression, throwing his tail for an above-the-lip air reverse. With a midrange backup for a shallow tube ride, De Souza held the lead going into the backend of the heat.
With his early strike, Muniz was able to overtake Wilson after a quick ride on a right but still lagged behind De Souza by a midrange seven. De Souza was able to hold on for the win though in shifting conditions.
"The last few events I was really pressured," De Souza said. "But this event, I've won [before]. I thought 'you should go, and do your best.'"
The three-man faceoff saw tight competition as the surfers strived to squeeze scores out of choppy waves. Aritz Aranburu, who has struggled this season with a string of 13th- and 25th-place finishes, meant business at Supertubos. The native of Spain's Basque Region was aggressive throughout the heat, appearing comfortable at the unpredictable European beachbreak.
He wasn't the only one at home in the punchy conditions though. Recent Trestles transplant Filipe Toledo found corners and quickly overtook Aranburu. Tahitian Michel Bourez lagged behind them both, struggling to make use of the short ramps and quick rides. Despite having won the Billabong Pro Rio, another beachbreak requiring lightfootedness and power in inconsistent surf, the skills didn't translate in Round 1. Bourez and Aranburu were sent to compete again, while Toledo advanced to Round 3.
With World No. 1 Gabriel Medina, wildcard Jacob Willcox, and defending Rip Curl Pro Portugal champ Kai Otton, Heat 6 featured interesting story lines. But true to his championship form, it was Medina who took an early lead, taking a committed drop to find a tube and finish with a smooth turn. Otton wasn't far behind, though, breaking out his own tube skills. The wildcard Willcox kept his wave-count high but wasn't able to capitalize, leaving his scoreline lacking.
Tallying a pair of seven-pointers and staying active, Medina's opponents scratched for scores, but never made up the difference. He advanced to the third round, leaving Willcox and Otton to compete again in Round 2. Medina's win was likely another boost to his confidence and also marked an increased level of pressure on the surfers chasing him for The Title, particularly Parkinson and Florence,
"It's really tricky out there," Medina said. "You had to be in the right place at the right time."
As for the Title race attention, Medina saw it as a good thing. "It's not pressure, it's motivating me. I feel good like this."
Of the three surfers in Heat 5, it was Kelly Slater who paddled out with the most to lose. With a 12th World Title hanging in the balance, he knew he needed to win in Portugal to stay in contention. But it was Matt Wilkinson, needing a strong result to requalify in 2015, who found the first barrel of the heat -- and the best wave of the day to that point - to earn a 9.57 and get out in front. Wildcard and local surfer Nic von Rupp, meanwhile, kept pace in wave count if not scores.
But with barely more than five minutes left, Slater produced the kind of magic that has already helped him win 11 World Titles. Finding a late drop into a barrel, Slater made it out and finished with a few wrapping turns. He earned a 9.67 to win the heat, set the bar on the day and stay in the World Title race.
Reflecting on his neck-and-neck Title race with Medina, Slater said: "He's hyper-competitive and he wants to win more than anybody else, just like I did when I was his age. You can see he loves to surf, he loves to get better... he's got crazy skills."
Sitting on the rankings bubble at No. 22, Sebastian Zietz was on fire from the start, finding three small tubes to take a strong lead. He put both Raoni Monteiro, No. 35, and reigning World Champion Mick Fanning in combo situations and didn't look back.
Monteiro fell further behind when he blew out a fin early and had to paddle in for a board change. He made it back out quickly, but never found a rhythm. Fanning found a solid ride as well, but scored just a 6.83 that didn't make a dent. Seabass took the win, leaving his opponents to surf again in Round 2.
"I was watching the waves, and it started cleaning up," Zietz said. "I just hunted the barrel like I do at home everyday."
Joel Parkinson put his opponents on notice out of the gate, posting an 8.50 to take the lead. He quickly backed it up with a 6.00, putting Jeremy Flores and C.J. Hobgood in combo situations before the heat was even half over. But Hobgood, who told the broadcast that he sees similarities between Portugal and his home turf of Florida, found a set wave and made the most of it, launching -- and landing -- a frontside air.
The maneuver wasn't enough, though, and with fewer than 10 minutes left, both he and Flores still needed two fresh scores to overtake Parko. Neither was able to catch up to the Aussie though, whose quick, early tube rides kept him out in front from start to finish. Parkinson advanced, while Hobgood and Flores were sent to the elimination round.
"I've put myself far out of it," Parkinson said of his World Title thoughts. "But ... you never know, something might happen."
"I've put myself far out of it," Parkinson said of his World Title thoughts. "But I'm surfing like I'm out of it, and you never know, something might happen."
The second heat of the morning matched recent stars of the Quiksilver Pro France, John John Florence and Jadson Andre, who were pitted against each other in a high-octane Final. Florence won that battle, while Andre went on to win the Prime-rated Cascais Billabong Pro just a week later. Both surfers arrived with momentum and confidence. Brett Simpson, meanwhile, came in with the pressure of needing a solid result to help his bid for WCT requalification.
More than anything, though, success in the three-man faceoff hinged on wave selection and making the most of the shifty conditions. In contrast to the prior heat, it was an active 30 minutes, with each surfer catching as many times as they could manage. Florence went to the air a few times, while Andre and Simpson focused on power-turns and barrels, with mixed results. In the end it was Andre who led the pack, capitalizing on his recent success and getting a ticket straight to Round 3.
"It's not easy out there, but it's fun," Andre said afterward. "I've been lucky to get the right waves."
The opening heat of the day was a muted faceoff in tricky conditions, in which the surfers worked to record a handful of midrange scores. Taj Burrow took control from the start, putting down solid turns on a first wave with an air-reverse for good measure. Freddy Patacchia Jr. was next, taking off on his backhand and, like Burrow, following up with another solid wave for a midrange number. Travis Logie was slower to get in tune with the ocean, appearing awkward on a few waves and struggling with selection.
Logie was quickly in a combo situation, needing two fresh scores to keep up. Needing a seven-pointer with just a minute left, Logie went for a huge frontside air rotation, but didn't land it. He and Patacchia, who was close behind Burrow, were sent to the sudden-death Round 2, while Burrow advanced directly to Round 3.