- WSL / Laurent Masurel
- WSL / Laurent Masurel
Highlights: Early Heats Light Up Azores
The Azores Airlines Pro kicked off in rippable conditions as the first 12 heats of Round 1 of competition took to the water.

The QS6,000 Azores Islands Pro launched today at the pristine, black sand praia de Santa Barbara with smallish surf but super fun peaks for some of the world's best surfers. The QS chase continued with the opening 12 heats of Round 1 completed and a first few signs of who's in form and hungry for points this week.

After a two-year hiatus from competition, Matheus Navarro came back fired up in 2019, picking up two wins in Florida and Argentina as well as a runner-up in Mexico. Today the 24 year-old Brasilian posted the best performance with a solid 14.33 total to validate his ticket for Round 2.

"I'm always a little anxious in these first heats, especially when conditions are tough with small waves," he said. "To be fair I'm used to surf similar conditions at home so I felt alright out there. I'm stoked to get a first win and I want to enjoy the island more and keep making heats. I've had a very good start this year and now this European leg is super important to keep my ranking up for the rest of the year and the next."

Matheus Navarro (BRA) Matheus Navarro (BRA) - WSL / Laurent Masurel

San Diego surfer Ryland Rubens will surely remember his first-ever QS6,000 heat for a long time as the young goofy foot launched his campaign with a dominating performance in Round 1. The Californian contributed to one of the upsets of the day by eliminating QS threat Marco Giorgi early in Azores.

"I'm happy to make my first heat and the waves were pretty fun out there when they came," he said. "This place looks great and it looks like some good swell is on its way so hopefully I get to explore some uncrowded zones and find waves. "

As the tide continued to come in, the lineup got slower and opportunities were far and few but that didn't stop fellow Californian Kei Kobayashi from stamping his authority on Heat 10. The fast regular foot took control of the heat early on and the real battle was actually for second place with a last moment exchange between Nicolas Squiers and Thomas Debierre. Eventually the Australian got the nod and advanced alongside Kobayashi.

Ryland Rubens (USA) Ryland Rubens (USA) - WSL / Laurent Masurel

"I've been having a pretty rough go this year so for sure it's nice to get that first one out of the way," he said. "This board I'm riding is a little bit old but I recently picked it up for a trip and it felt great so I decided to bring it here. I'm still pretty jet lagged so I'm going to go get some rest and come back root for the boys later on today."

In the final heat of the day, Portuguese junior Afonso Antunes put together a very convincing effort to take the Round 1 win over perennial threats Michael Dunphy and Vitor Mendes.

Antunes wasn't the only junior left in the field, California's Nick Marshall who was a standout in the Ribeira Grande Pro Junior these past few days kept the ball rolling and picked up where he left off with a heat win in his own first-ever QS6,000. More rookies will take on some of the strongest crowd on the Qualifying Series when competition gets back underway presumably tomorrow.

Wave and line-up WaveLineUp - WSL / Laurent Masurel

As conditions continued to slow down, event officials decided to call competition off for the rest of the day after Heat 12 and will reconvene at 7:45 a.m Wednesday for a potential early start of Day 2.

The Azores Islands Pro will unfold from September 17-22, 2019 at praia de Santa Barbara, Ribeira Grande, Sao Miguel / Azores Islands.

Check out all photos, videos, results and of course the LIVE Webcast from Azores right here on worldsurfleague.com.

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