A few of the most successful surfers of all time arrived in Portugal yesterday to compete in the Azores Airlines World Masters Championship. Sitting at the press conference, there were more World Titles in one room than anyone could count. And it was apparent that time has not diluted anyone's competitive drive.
"This event is a reboot for all of us," said 1993 World Champ Pauline Menczer. "There's some people here that I haven't seen in probably 20 years."
After the progressive style of the Surf Ranch event, the Masters Championships provides a welcomed change - celebrating the athletes who have helped shape the sport. And while it's a competition, the vibes on site resemble that of a high school reunion.
"We aren't as aggressive as we were in the old days," said Egan after his heat win. "We're all good mates now. Sunny would usually want to bite your head off. You would have to run up the beach and hide from him if you beat him. But now it's all fun. It's so good seeing all these guys after all these years."
Event favorite and 3x World Champ Tom Curren also made his debut in Azores today, winning his heat over Gary Elkerton. The lully conditions caused both competitors to struggle. Elkerton was unable to put up a single score and Curren made it through with a 6.30 heat total. Luckily for Elkerton, with a round-robin event format, he will get another chance in Heat 8 against Shane Beschen.
"Conditions got tricky during our heat," said Curren. "My first wave was my best one. I was able to get out in front of Gary but I'm not too satisfied with that one. I'm going to work on my board, make some changes and get ready for the next heat."
Jake Paterson, current Championship Tour coach, dominated Heat 6 by earning the highest single-wave score of the day with an 8.83 to overthrow Brazilian Fabio Gouveia. At 45-years-old, Paterson is one of the youngest competitors in the event.
"It's tough when you coach kids for a living and then you go out there and have to stick to your own game plan," said Paterson. "But it actually went perfectly planned. Ezekiel Lau wanted to come out here and coach me but that's a lot of pressure. I always tell them to do what I say not what I do."
To wrap up the day, 6 heats of the Grand Masters event, men over the age of 55, ran in 3-4 foot conditions. And despite it being foggy and rainy yesterday, the sun was in full force this afternoon.
Australian goofyfooter Rob Bain overcame defending event champ Iain Buchanan in Heat 1. Despite the nerves, Bain was the standout of the afternoon. He also went on to win his Heat 4 match-up against Australia's Glen Winton with a 14.27 heat total - the second highest of the day.
"You're super nervous before your heat. I mean we've all been catching up with each other and sharing stories but we still want to do well. It feels good to get a heat under my belt and just surf because the waves are a bit random. You get to this age and you just want to surf well especially if it's being televised."
Check back tomorrow for the call at 10:45 am. AZOST and watch live daily on Worldsurfleague.com, App and Facebook.