In shifty but powerful, and sometimes confusing, conditions - it was the competitors who were best able to spot opportunity that came out victorious on day 3 of the Azores Airlines World Masters Championship. Situated in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, the São Miguel Island in Azores is open to all elements.
With the women's division off for the day, the last remaining 8 heats of Round 1 (for men over 45) were completed.
After losing his first two heats, the chances of Sunny Garcia advancing to the Quarters looked slim this morning. The Hawaiian was visibly frustrated yesterday after losing to Dave Macaulay, eyeing down the judges from the water and creating some nostalgia for the rest of us.
"I was pissed with my scores yesterday," said Garcia. "But bringing all these old guys back together, nothing has changed. I mine as well give the judges some birds for old times' sake."
But today Garcia was able to find his form, taking his first heat win against Joao Alexandre. And because he had higher-scoring heat totals in his first two (losing) heats, he'll be advancing to the Semis in Azores.
"We're all still really competitive," continued Garcia. And (because I won one heat) I want to say thank you to the WSL. I'm so blessed to be able surf and hang out with these guys. I was going blow for blow with Dave Macaulay yesterday and it brought back a lot of memories. We had some good heats together back in the day."
Jake Paterson pulled ahead of the pack early on. The surfer turned CT coach hails from Western Australia, meaning he's more than comfortable in unruly surf. His rhythm went unmatched and Paterson earned a 9.40 (the highest of the event) for two powerful turns and his second heat win of Round 1. In his final heat of the day, Paterson went up against Derek Ho and again scored in the excellent range - earning an 8.33 and his third heat win. The 45-year-old will be advancing to the Quarters as a clear frontrunner.
"It was definitely a trip surfing against Tom," said Beschen. "I've never surfed a heat with him before. I wish I could've seen him catch more waves. But it's crazy...he's riding a skimboard out there. I saw both Jake and Luke ripping in their heats, so the guys are surfing good still. If they're able to find the right wave and right section, they're laying down crazy turns. We're going to get some good heats going this event."
Most of the time competitors escape to the airport as soon as they're eliminated from an event but the vibes in Azores have been the opposite. Regardless of results, athletes have been hanging around and watching each other's heats. Tom Curren, asked for Matt Hoy's autograph after losing out to him in Heat 17.
"The passion is still there," said Luke Egan. "We're just a lot older."
Check back tomorrow for the call at 10:30 am. AZOST and watch live on Worldsurfleague.com, App and Facebook.