Despite a decrease in swell, waves in the 4-6 foot range (1.5-2 meters) were still on hand Thursday for Day 3 of the 2018 Maui and Sons Arica Pro Tour. But as many competitors know from first-hand experience, El Gringo is still El Gringo - and it's just as dangerous when it's smaller.
With the event's top seeds entering competition in Round 3, the athletes needed to step up their game to advance at the WSL Men's Qualifying Series 3,000 in Arica, Chile. Wave selection was crucial today since the wide-open barrels were harder to find. Those that chose well were benefited with deep tuberides and positive results.
William Aliotti (FRA) has had prior success in Arica, winning the event in 2016. His knowledge of the reef at El Gringo was prevalent in Heat 10 of Round 3, scoring the day's highest total of 16.67, including a surprisingly long barrel that earned him a 9.00.
"It's a really nice day here, like always. I got lucky because the wind was starting to go onshore, but it stopped during my heat, so I was really happy about this," said Aliotti, who despite not competing much, is adamant about coming to Arica year after year.
"I like doing this contest every year because the waves are always pumping and the people are amazing," continued the Frenchman. "I love this place and this country, so I'm always happy here. I've been riding my 5'10" and I've had this board for a couple of years. It hasn't broken yet and I know that it's great for these types of waves."
In a replay of last year's Final, the 2017 event winner, Tomas Tudela (PER), faced Dean Bowen (AUS) in Heat 6 of Round 3. The outcome was repeated, with Tudela advancing in 1st place and Bowen also advancing into Round 4. With forecasters predicting a rise in swell, both goofy-footers will be hungry for the adrenaline that the waves at El Gringo can provide.
"It always feels good coming back to Arica, I love surfing the waves here," remarked Tudela. "I'm relieved to make it past my first heat. I broke my board on my first wave, had to swim back over the reef and grabbed a board I'd never used before. I fell on a few waves before getting the handle of it, but then I got some good barrels towards the end of the heat that I got the scores on."
Tomas and his older brother, Peruvian ripper Miguel Tudela, have been coming to Arica since they were kids, honing their craft in heavy lefthand barrels.
"I've been competing here since I was a grom, because it's so close to where I live in Peru. It's the perfect place to learn how to surf in heavy conditions, especially because I love barrels and riding frontside. It's the kind of wave you can really show your style of surfing and performance on a world-class wave," added Tudela.
As the onshore winds crept in at lunchtime, barrels became harder and harder to find. Saquarema legend Raoni Monteiro (BRA) and the 2016 WSL South America Champion, Leandro Usuna (ARG) advanced in Heat 12 of Round 3, while the reigning 2017 continental champ, Thiago Camarão (BRA) did well to win Heat 13 with event standout Lucas Chianca (BRA) coming from behind with a last-minute barrel to move on in 2nd place.
"I knew that Lucas (Chianca) and Vitor (Ferreira) were going back and forth for second place, but this is the kind of wave that needs your undivided attention," said Camarão. "So, I just tried to maintain my focus and hold priority for the best waves of the heat. Even though the lefts have the most potential here, the rights also started breaking and I knew that could be an option. I ended up getting good barrels in both directions, but it's super dangerous here and you need to concentrate on making good decisions."
Event organizers called the day off afterwards with the onshore winds picking up in intensity. A call is set for 7:00 am local time for Heat 14 of Round 3 that on paper will guarantee fireworks. The Australian phenom Jack Robinson will go up against Wiggolly Dantas (BRA), Jeronimo Vargas (BRA) and Jhonny Corzo (MEX) to resume competition of the 2018 Maui and Sons Arica Pro Tour.