Waves were slightly affected by the cross-shore winds but a few wedges still provided plenty of ramps and sections for the two surfers to rip. The battle didn't go Yago's way right from the start and Michael managed to get an early lead with good surfing on the lefts and occasional right.
Halfway through the Final, though, Yago stepped on the gas and started using his full repertoire, mixing carves and a couple of little airs to distance himself from Michael and ultimately win his second QS6,000 of the season.
"I feel amazing now with a second win this year I'm speechless," he stated. "Last year I wasn't even doing so well and it's crazy how things have changed. Being in the Final with Michael was really cool, he just made another Final in Spain and he surfs amazing, I hope he gets more good results also this year."
Already in a great qualifying situation pre-Azores, Yago with the added 6,000 points collected today jumps up to No. 2 on the QS with 19,000+ points, slightly above the expected cutoff. If all goes well he should join fellow Brazilian and current QS leader Jesse Mendes on the 2018 Championship Tour roster.
"Ian (Gouveia) told me to win this event for him as he couldn't be here this year," he added. "It's definitely less weight on my shoulders now, my goal was to finish the Euro leg with all the points I needed to qualify so I think I've done just that and I'm super stoked about it. Competing is what I love doing and no matter the points and qualification I'm going to enjoy it just as much in these next few events."
As for Michael Rodrigues, there are two ways to tell his story: the glass half-empty kind will note he's just lost his second man-on-man Final in less than a week. But on the bright side, the kid from Florianopolis has just earned 9,000 points in the span of six days and could very well add a lot more before the season ends. With the level of surfing he showed all week and the fire to win that he displayed, there's very little doubt he's on his way to bigger and better things.
"I'm feeling really happy, I tried to do my best and unfortunately it just wasn't enough this time," he said. "This is another amazing result for me and I'm so excited to keep going and compete in the next event."
The opening Semifinal was a battle of styles, Wade Carmichael in one corner with power-surfing, Dora in the other corner with his air game. The battle was cut very short when Yago launched, and landed a perfect full rotation for a 9.23 and ultimately his spot in the Final.
Up until then, Wade's surfing had been on point with massive turns on his backhand in the little left wedges, but it just couldn't quite match Yago's flair in the Semis. An equal third is Wade's second-best result in 2017 and will push him up in the Qualifying Series Top 20 heading into his final European effort in Cascais at the end of the month.
"One more heat would have been good, but I feel like I'm surfing well and I'm just trying to have some fun and carry some momentum into the next few events," he said. "The waves weren't great in our heat and it didn't break much after he got the 9, I would have needed more opportunities to try to get a big score myself. I had heaps of fun this week and I really enjoyed my time in the Azores."
The second Semi between Michael and compatriot Bino Lopes wasn't quite as dramatic, as both surfers struggled a little bit to find good waves. The lead changed hands a few times as scores kept coming in the similar good range and ultimately Lopes missed out on the Final by a mere .37, placing equal third.
"Of course it's a great result for me but I feel terrible right now because I feel like one single mistake lost me the heat," he said. "Congrats to Michael, he smashed it out there and deserved his win. I want to thank everyone who supported me, my family and friends, sponsors and my girlfriend, all the messages really cheered me up all week."
With the Azores Airlines Pro pres. by SEAT completed today, the new European QS Top 5 is as follows:
With the event finishing two days early, competitors will now have time to soak in all the beauty of Sao Miguel, or instead start preparing for the next event coming up, the QS1,500 Anfaplace Pro Casablanca, from September 12-17.
Check out all photos, videos, results from Azores right here.