The QS1,500 Senegal Pro continued in pumping surf at the primary venue of Surfer Paradise today. The righthand reef break lit up all day, pulsing fun waves in shallow water and challenging surfers with a dangerous inside section.
Both men and women got to compete as competition advanced through four rounds of competition to set up a probable finals day Saturday.
"We arrived this morning and had a very nice surprise with waves being a solid three foot at Surfer Paradise, nice and clean just perfect conditions," Etienne Buys, head judge stated. "I was really impressed with how surfers were attacking the sections on that wave and the commitment they showed to hit that third maneuver on almost dry rocks. It was a real pleasure watching and judging all the action today."
Women's Field Down to Last Four
Round 2 saw two surfers lift up their game well above the rest of the field in the firing rights of Surfer Paradise. Up-and-rising Israeli star Anat Lelior took the lineup by storm in the first heat and posted the highest single scoring ride of the entire event so far, an excellent 8.50. The 18 year-old from Tel Aviv brought power to the party with committed turns in the lips to take the win.
Unfortunately the first two women's Quarters were plagued by an unforeseen lull and Lelior couldn't find a single decent wave while her opponent Camilla Kemp advanced with a single ride of 6 points.
Japan's Emily Nashimoto was the other goofy foot standout as she posted a 7.25 and 6.00 to take the win into the Quarters. Nishimoto's slightly lighter touch was compensated with crisp rail game and fast maneuvers to impress the judging panel. The Japanese surfer continued to build momentum into the following round and posted an impressive 14.75 total on her way to the Semifinals.
"It was really great to be able to keep building my scores out there, that's the best way to win heats," Nishimoto said. "I actually like going left better but I know I surf better on my backhand so this wave and N'Gor were very good to me. This country is beautiful and the people are so nice, I'm extremely happy to have come here. Surfing a reef for an event is quite rare so it's a great experience all together."
She will be joined by Nadia Erostarbe who took out Neis Lartigue in their two-surfer Quarterfinal heat. The Basque surfer stayed patient and found a good set wave to lay two turns on for a 7.25 and the ticket for the Semis.
"That last heat was extremely stressing as there weren't any waves," Erostarbe said. "I was lucky to be in position and with priority for the only big set that came through, and I went for it cause I knew one turn could make the difference for me. I'm really excited for the finals tomorrow."
Men's Race Wide Open Into Finals Day
The men's field looks much harder to predict with new surfers posting big results today in Round 2 and 3. French junior Tiago Carrique dominated a three-man South African pack with solid backhand turns to take a surprise win into the Quarters over Dylan Lightfoot, the event's highest seed Beyrick De Vries and Max Elkington.
"It was definitely a big heat for me," Carrique said. "I'm still a junior so I didn't feel any pressure, winning against two guys that are on the big QS is just bonus for me. I feel great on that wave, I grew up on a very similar wave in Costa Rica so I'm right at home here."
Later in the round, Ian Fontaine took out an all-French matchup that started pretty terribly for the surfer from Brittany. Visibly unfazed by the situation, Fontaine went on to post the highest single number of the day, an excellent 8.25 for a rail-to-rail attack on a beautiful set wave.
"I hadn't surfed in a few hours and before my heat started I decided to take a wave while we were on hold," Fontaine explained. "I had no idea this wasn't allowed and it wasn't great to start the heat in fourth priority right away. I knew I would have limited opportunities so I decided to really choose my waves wisely, I only took two and I think it worked out well."
"I'm here to compete myself obviously but also helping out Tiago on heat strategy and competition in general," he added. "My goal is for him to paddle out with a free mind, a clear strategy and it helps me too because I think twice as much about the situation. I'm stoked the kids love it and it seems to be working alright."
The pair of Billabong riders' work together clearly benefited both surfers and they'll look to take their campaigns all the way on finals day.
Senegal Surfers Look at Experience to Improve Competitive Strategies
Unfortunately, local Senegal surfers couldn't quite match the level of performance in Round 2 imposed by international competitors as all four representatives bailed out in fourth position.
"I'm really disappointed because a lot of people showed up to support me and I feel like I let them down a bit," Fall said. "I just didn't get lucky with waves and my knowledge of the spot didn't help much. But this has really motivated me to go and compete more to build more experience. I'm going to try to travel to South Africa to more events."
"I had a lot of fun and I felt proud to surf here with all the local boys," Sambe added. "I'll definitely be back next year cause I know I can do better. It was great to watch other guys surf here and see what we're missing. I think we surf a little flat and I can already see angles to work on to improve my game."
"I didn't really manage my heat like I should have but I still take a lot of good out of this experience," Camara said. "I'm sure now this is what I want to do, I need to get some coaching, work on my boards and I'd love to be an ambassador for surfing in Senegal."
Event officials will be back at 9 a.m Saturday for what looks to be the final call of the event, as conditions are expected to be good to complete the final rounds.
The Senegal Pro will unfold from March 27-31, check out daily recaps, pictures, videos and full results right here.