Highlights: Pumping Surf to Decide Quarterfinalists in Azores
Santa Barbara pumps on Day 3 and by day's end, only 8 surfers remain at Azores Airlines Pro pres. by SEAT.

Santa Barbara finally came to life on Day 3 of the Azores Airlines Pro pres. by SEAT with three-to-five foot wedges breaking all day and occasional bigger sets. Waves continued to give surfers plenty of opportunities to shine and showcase high-performance surfing in Rounds Three, Four and Five to keep only the best eight athletes for finals day Friday.

Gony Zubizarreta and Ramzi Boukhiam battled it out in the first Round Five man-on-man heat this afternoon. The whole 25-minute matchup was a back-and-forth exchange of the lead with Ramzi getting away with it into the final seconds of the heat. But Gony stood up on a final effort right on the buzzer and managed to post the 6.27 he required to turn the heat and advance into the Quarters.

Gony Zubizarreta (ESP) Gony on a small one early this morning. - WSL / WSL/POULLENOT

"I've had close calls in my career but this one must have been the closest ever, as I heard the countdown from five seconds I had no idea if I was going to stand up in time," he said. "Working on our brand Jam with Marlon [Lipke] takes a bit of the pressure off the competition so I feel great and it's allowed me to surf more freely and get some good results these past couple of years."

Yago Dora took on Thiago Camarao in the following heat and completely asphyxiated him with two solid scores right from the get go. But if you know Thiago, you know he's not one to back away from a challenge, and sure enough he continued to fight, and ultimately posted an excellent 8-point ride to come back in the heat with only a minute or two on the clock. Yago, who up until then stuck to the wave face for his two best scores, played his trump card with a perfectly executed full rotation and definitely sealed the deal with an incredible 9.43.

Yago Dora (BRA) Yago continues to fly through heats in Azores. - WSL / WSL/POULLENOT

"I feel great making finals day again after Pantin last weekend," he stated. "It was a crazy heat and Thiago is a great competitor so I had to step it up at the end. There was a lot of water moving and it was hard to find a little pocket so you just had to keep trying and stay active. That last wave was perfect to land an air, so I tried to secure the rotation with a grab and thankfully made it."

QS No. 21 Wade Carmichael dominated his Round Five battle against Seth Moniz, with the luxury of an instant great start with an 8.27 on his first wave. Wade's experience helped him back it up quickly and keep trying to improve on the situation, and every time Seth tried to get back in the game, the Australian pushed the requirement just slightly higher.

Wade Carmichael (AUS) Just pure, solid surfing is Wade's recipe for success. - WSL / WSL/POULLENOT

"I'm stoked, I managed to link a few turns on the first wave and backed it up right away," he said. "It was a big day and I'm stoked to make the Quarters tomorrow, bring it on! I've never really had a good European leg so I'm trying to put my focus on that and get a few results. The peak this year here is super fun with wedges everywhere and I'm having a ball."

Unfortunately waves backed off a little bit for the remainder of the afternoon, thus rendering performances slightly less exciting. Peterson Crisanto, Aritz Aranburu, Michael Rodrigues, Bino Lopes and Davey Cathels completed the draw in the Quarters and will have a shot at the event title when competition resumes Friday morning.

First call for the finals will be at 8:45 a.m tomorrow.

Check out all photos, videos, results and live webcast right here.

World Surf League
Download it for free on the App store. Download it for free on Google Play.