There's nothing easy about competing in the Guincho lineup. The paddle out is long. The current is strong. The peaks are shifty, and the wind and tides wreak havoc on anything resembling a reliable wave. But in the bright sunshine, when there are consistent sets, and the wind forgets to blow, it's a damn workable wave, as the QS contenders proved on Thursday.
The day began with QS frontrunner Leo Fioravanti throwing buckets on set waves, determined on keeping his lock on the top spot. But the powerful Australian Wade Carmichael started coming on strong, eventually blasting his way to a win in the early morning light. The heavily bearded Central Coast Australian loves the bigger stuff, and stuck to the chunky rights to earn the biggest scores of the heat.
Carmichael is No. 52 on the QS rankings, which is a huge testament to the talent level in surfing's minor leagues. He's an accomplished surfer, yet a good 10,000 points away from the qualifying conversation at the moment. A win here would start the ball rolling, and fans have already witnessed his very capable abilities at Sunset and Haleiwa. Stranger things have happened.
There were a lot of eyes on Beyrick de Vries from South Africa in the last heat of Round Two. Something of an anomaly at the moment, Beyrick had the event of his life at the Ballito Pro, which came directly after he took a year off from Pro Surfing. His fifth place result in Durban included a win over his hero Jordy Smith, and it catapulted him up to 27th on the WQS ratings. But his Billabong Pro run ended Thursday. He was defeated by Dimitri Ouvre of Saint Bartholomew and Californian, Kanoa Igarashi. De Vries is now debating whether or not he should recalibrate before Hawaii or return to his year off.
When Jadson Andre hit the water it was like a new level of energy just exploded. The sun was beating down, the bikinis were out, and Jadson put on a show. A quick flick through the record books shows that Jadson has two wins at this event, and he feels very comfortable in the hood. He's surfing with swagger in Cascais, where he's absolutely starving for another win.
Much like from Connor O'Leary. After a slow start, Connor turned on in the deteriorating conditions. He proved his chops in his heat, going hard against the three Brazilians: David do Carmo, Victor Bernardo and Championship Tour rookie Caio Ibelli. Connor comes from surfing bloodlines, with his mom a Japanese surfing professional and his dad a fast and competent surfer from Cronulla. Connor found his rhythm in the heat, despite some hard surfing from the rest, and advanced to the round of 24 along with Bernardo.
Connor, as mentioned, will be competing on the Championship Tour next year after his win at Ballito and a few good backups. He also has loads of confidence in Hawaii - remember he beat Medina in the third round at Haleiwa last year - and as a goofy-footer he thrives on his backhand, which holds him in good stead for Sunset and Haleiwa, both locations for the final QS10000 events of the year. He won the Ballito Pro on his backhand in the perfect glass of Willard Beach, and today he blew up on the wind-blown lefts, showing his versatility in all conditions.
With careers at stake in these QS10000 events, it's always gratifying to watch the likes of Tanner Gudaskaus, Jack Freestone, Brett Simpson and Tommy Whittaker advance. Even Jeremy Flores, Europe's most successful surfer ever, didn't falter in the last heat of the day, and he really needs the QS right now to keep his Tour career alive. Making the Round of 24 is a decent start for Flores, but on the flip side of every feel good story there's a heart-breaking loss, just ask Matt Banting, Jack Robinson, and Krystian Kymerson.
The QS ratings will get a huge makeover after the next day of competition, and lives will be forever changed because of it.