With the South China Sea working on trade wind swells at this time of year, the opening day of the Jeep International Hainan Open unfortunately fell on a tough day for waves. The excitement levels were still high with the finesse and skill shown by the competitors something to behold in the small weak waves. The completion of Round One saw competitors get to work in wind-affected, 1-foot peaks.
Future Brazilian surf star Samuel Pupo looked comfortable in the small conditions posting the highest heat total of the opening day, a 13.25 with an epic display of fins free progressive surfing. Pupo cruised into Round Two, where he will no doubt play as a major threat throughout the remainder of competition.
"That was kind of fun out there," he said. "The waves are small but I was able to get in a good rhythm and find the scores to win. My board feels good so I hope to keep making heats. This is my first time in China and it is really cool. Hainan is beautiful and reminds me a lot of home in Brazil, so it is fun to explore."
Hailing from the wave-rich shores of Portugal, Miguel Blanco is more accustomed to large, intense surf than the small wind swell on offer today. Blanco's thirst for perfect surf means he was out of his comfort zone on Day 1 in China. This did not show on the scoreboard with Blanco posting the highest two wave heat total of the event so far, a 12.50 (out of a possible 20) to win his heat.
"I really prepare myself mentally for surfing heats with waves like this," Blanco said. "It's about staying as positive as possible and trying to find a way to have fun. This is my second time in China and it is cool to be back, it is such a different culture to what I'm used to. You can really see the potential Lingshui has for waves but just not today unfortunately. Today was really hard work for sure."
Fresh off a QS1,000 win in Port Stephens two weeks ago, young Gold Coast ripper Liam O'Brien has come to China with the hope of continuing his good form. With vastly different conditions on offer today, this wasn't going to be easy for the natural-footer. Fortunately for O'Brien, his positive attitude and light-footed surfing allowed him to find the winning heat total of 9.25 and progress into Round Two.
"I try and surf in all conditions at home so I'm prepared for what ever we have to deal with at an event," O'Brien said. "You never know what you are going to get at an event which I find to be a fun challenge, trying to find a score in all types of different conditions is a great test. I'm happy to make that heat and will hope for a few more waves this week."
Kiwi competitor Elliot Paerata-Reid adapted to the small conditions at QuingShui Bay by changing his equipment to a lighter epoxy board to increase his float on the weaker waves. The decision paid off as Paerata-Reid cruised through Round One with a heat total of 8.90.
"At the end of the day we are all here to get points and regardless of the conditions we will all get some points," Paerata-Reid said. "I have a couple of new epoxy constructed small wave boards that I bought with me and it definitely helped. I'm just staying positive and hopefully that helps me make a few more heats."
Young Hawaiian prodigy Noah Beschen is looking for a big result in China and hopes it way improve his seeding heading into the 2018 season. Only just coming out of the Junior ranks, the 16-year-old played to his strengths and stayed light on his feet to move through the heat just behind Brazilian Wesley Leite.
"A big part of coming here for me was to try and improve my seeding and try and start 2018 in the QS6,000 events in Australia," Beschen said. "I'm a lot lighter than the majority of the other competitors which is a definite advantage for me. As hard as it is out there I'm happy to be competing in a new place."