Despite a slight decrease in swell, pumping conditions were on hand throughout Day 3 of competition at the Heroes de Mayo Iquique Pro. A light breeze and waves in the 3-4 foot range gave the athletes the opportunity to tuck into slabby barrels or opt for turns along the open face at La Punta on Wednesday. Plenty of high scores were given from the judges today, none better than the 9.10 earned by Yuri Gonçalves (BRA) for the highest score of the event so far. Advancing in second place was the Kiwi Billy Stairmand (NZL), eliminating Mihimana Braye (FRA) and Koa Smith (HAW).
Although La Punta mostly breaks as a righthander along the shallow reef, the swell direction provided the surfers with the option to go left as well. However, the danger of getting swept along the urchin-riddled rocky coastline was a constant threat on any wave surfed.
"I didn't have priority when Mihimana (Braye) paddled into a right. But as soon as he went, this incredibly slabby left popped up out of nowhere," said Gonçalves. "I paddled a bit late and air dropped to the bottom before my rails dug in. The wave took this deep breath while I was in the tube, then spat me out with the spray. I was ecstatic and there's no better feeling than that."
Gonçalves currently resides at Praia do Silveira, on the Santa Catarina coastline in Brazil. Known as a righthand pointbreak, Gonçalves felt prepared coming to Iquique for the first time.
"I have to admit that I was a little bit anxious before coming here," continued Gonçalves. "But my homebreak is a right pointbreak and I knew I would feel comfortable. But as soon as I arrived today, I saw those lefts breaking and knew that they could be an option. I needed to make it through that heat and now I just hope the barrels stick around until the end of the comp," added Gonçalves.
João Chianca (BRA), younger brother of big-wave charger Lucas Chianca, was another standout today, earning an 8.33 on a righthander by throwing, speedy powerful hacks down the line. He added a mid-range of a 5.83 for the highest total heat score of the event with a 14.16 total.
"I'm happy that I surfed a good heat. Sometimes you advance with small scores, so it was nice to get that high-score," said Chianca, who also progressed earlier in the day during the Pro Junior event. "I felt really focused and I spent some time meditating on the sand before my heat, so I got in the water feeling calm. Things started off slowly, but after I got my feet in the wax, I got into a good rhythm and the scores started coming. It's great competing at a contest with high-quality waves. It's a lot better than most spots on the QS, so I have nothing to complain about."
As the day progressed, certain heats went through some lulls as the tide changed. Despite conditions momentarily deteriorating, the excitement on the beach could be felt as the defending event winner, Jack Robinson (AUS) threw on his competition jersey.
The heat was derailed by small scores seeing INKA TEAM athlete Joaquin Del Castillo (PER) taking first place with the Australian wunderkind Robinson advancing in second behind him.
"Things weren't really going my way, but I did enough, so all that mattered was getting through," said Robinson. "It's tricky cause sometimes you don't get the good heat, just average heats along the way. You just need to stay consistent and keep moving through."
With admiration stemming from his stunning video parts and last year's event victory, Robinson is clearly a fan favorite in Iquique. The young Australian reciprocated his feelings for the event site.
"I love this place, so it was important for me to defend the title. I wasn't going to miss this event, so I was definitely keen to come back to defend it and go against everyone because the waves are so good here, I love it," Robinson concluded.
The Pro Junior event that is part of the Heroes de Mayo Iquique Pro is anybody's game with the South American talent at an astonishing level. With the current rankings leader Mateus Herdy (BRA) opting not to come to Chile, Daniel Adisaka (BRA) has now jumped into the lead after his heat win today. However, competition promises to remain intense as current WSL South America Qualifying Series (QS) rankings leader, Lucas Vicente (BRA) is also competing in the Pro Junior event and is looking to make up ground in the under-18 division in Chile.
A call is set for 8:00 am local time on Thursday. Competition will begin with the Women's QS 1500 before commencing with the Women's Pro Junior later on in the day.