The beach at Maresias, Brazil is where Gabriel Medina (BRA), Miguel Pupo (BRA) and Filipe Toledo (BRA) all honed their skills in the water. They've faced each other innumerable times while they were growing up. Now, after each surfer has spent time on the World Championship Tour (WCT), all three have returned to their home break to lead the charge at the O'Neill SP Prime presented by Guarana Antartica.
Under favorable conditions with waves in the 4-to-5-foot range (1.5-metres) and light winds, a full day of competition ran in front of another large audience. Currently residing in California, Toledo was right at home at the beachbreak as he attacked the surf and executed a huge no-hand, full-rotation air to earn a 9.93, the highest score so far at the O'Neill SP Prime.
"I was getting really anxious during the heat," said Toledo. "I'd been waiting for a perfect little right to come through so I could throw that air. I was so stoked that I landed it perfectly and I feel very confident that I'll get a good result at this event."
Three out of the five judges gave Toledo a Perfect 10-point ride for his stunt. "I've been practicing it a lot here in Brazil. I've only been surfing down by the end of the beach since I arrived without surfing at the contest site once.
"I stuck one earlier this morning and I felt like I could do it again in a heat. After I got a couple of good scores on some waves, I started giving it a few shots and when I made it, I knew I'd get the win."
Pupo was the first member of the so-called Brazilian Storm to hit the water when he faced Nathan Hedge (AUS), Igor Moraes (BRA) and Ramzi Boukhiam (MAR) in Heat 13 of Round of 96. Pupo nailed his first few waves and netted a 15.00 heat total early on and advanced along with Hedge into the next round.
"I don't like competing in the first heat of the day because my body usually feels like it isn't fully awake," observed Pupo. "So I took a cold shower as soon as I woke up and it helped, because I won the heat.
"I'm competing at home in front of my friends and family, so that gives me more incentive to do well, but at the same time, it kind of builds a lot of pressure. The last time I participated in an event here, I was thirteen years old. I remember that I made a heat and at the time, that was the best feeling in the world. I love competing here again, so I just want to thank the organizers for bringing the contest back."
Once again, the entire beach started buzzing as soon as Medina arrived. Currently leading the WCT rankings, Medina is bombarded daily with questions about the Title Race, but seemed serene as he warmed up before his heat against Joan Duru (FRA), Brett Simpson (USA) and Maxime Huscenot (FRA). After a few low scores, Medina quickly built a lead by consistently taking to the air for the heat victory.
"There weren't many good waves in our heat, but I landed that air at the end that saved me," stated Medina. "Conditions kept changing with the tide, so we didn't really know where to sit. That's why I'm glad I made it to the next round. The crowds have been incredible, there are so many people coming to the event, and this is just on Monday and Tuesday. I'm sure that things will be insane on Saturday."
A call is set for 7:30 am (local time) to assess conditions for continuation of the O'Neill SP Prime. Watch LIVE once action gets under way.