The QS 10,000 EDP Billabong Pro Ericeira continued in fun three-to-four foot conditions at Ribeira d'Ilhas and ran through the remaining heats of Round Two. And, like in any good QS 10k, it didn't take long before the drama kicked in.
World No. 16 Michael Rodrigues was the first top seed to suffer an early exit and it happened during the first heat of the day.
Former CT athlete Ethan Ewing on the other hand started off strong. His polished carves and rail work turned in a couple of great scores but when he added a massive layback snap and a little tail slide in the combo, judges dropped a 9.00 - advancing Ewing into Round Three. That came at the expense of World No. 27 Michael February who also bowed out early.
"Last year was hard and this year I'm just focused on my surfing and trying to get better," Ewing said. "I'm trying not to pay too much attention to my rankings and focus on enjoying competing. I find this wave really hard to surf, I've had some shocking free surfs so it's good to get a couple of good ones out there and connect the dots."
Jorgann Couzinet followed with a crucial win over Kei Kobayashi, Mikey Wright and Wigolly Dantas. The powerful regular foot currently sits at No. 7 on the QS and for the second year running, eyes a potential CT berth. He came extremely close last year and looks determined to make it this time around. Plus if he ever needed extra motivation, there's a wildcard slot into the Quiksilver Pro France next week up for grabs for the highest Frenchy on the QS, post Ericeira.
"Originally I wanted to catch waves outside to get a couple of good turns before the inside section but that didn't work out and luckily I got some good bowls," he said. "I've been through up and downs this season and I just have to make a few more heats to qualify so I'm concentrated and hoping for the best here."
2014 World Champion Gabriel Medina definitely doesn't feel the same kind of pressure to perform in Ericeira, currently ranked 2nd in the World and in his own race, not to qualify, but to claim a second world title this season. He still went out there fired up and locked in an 8.60 on his first wave, the second highest score of the whole event so far.
Kanoa Igarashi also had a good start. The Californian, representing Japan and spending a lot of time in Portugal is practically a local at the break and showed he knows which waves to pick. He started on a reform that stood up all the way into the inside and let him perform multiple turns for an 8.27 and the win.
"It's kind of tricky when it's slow like that but I just had to make sure I had priority at the right time and it worked out," Igarashi said. "Whatever the event, you always want to win, so even though it may mean less for some of the CT guys, it's a great wave and we want to do well."
Tomas Fernandes took a big win for team Portugal, advancing in first ahead of Leonardo Fioravanti and eliminating Jesse Mendes along the way. Of course Fernandes has tons of experience competing at Ribeira d'Ilhas so his win comes as no surprise. His best memories here? Probably an epic Semifinal clash at the 2014 World Juniors against the current World No. 4 Italo Ferreira. He also lost to Fioravanti the following year in the same event so plenty of history at play here.
"Crowds are unbelievable here, every time I even just start paddling I can hear people cheering me on so that gives me a lot of strength," Fernandes said. "I'm stoked to get through and I hope to do even better in the next one. Waves were really slow and I got that 7 that put me in first so I was stoked. This is a very special wave for me, I consider it one of the best in the world."
With high tide nearing at lunchtime and a fickle dying swell at this point, event officials decided to call competition Off for the rest of the day and wait for improved conditions to resume.
Along the way we lost another bunch of really talented surfers who probably won't be stoked with their performance in Ericeira and will be even scarier to match up with in the next events. World No. 8 Mikey Wright, long time CT competitor Alejo Muniz and Jesse Mendes are just a few.
Surfers will be back at 7:30 a.m for the call on Wednesday with potentially much, much better conditions on offer.
Tune in from September 24-30, 2018 for the LIVE webcast and check out all the results, photos, videos and updates right here!