The Azores Islands Pro fired through a critical day of competition in small but highly consistent conditions as surfers eye a potential big swell pushing through as early as tomorrow.
In punchy little peaks, the battle was won by dynamic surfing in the first heat and at that game the new guard of Jake Marshall and Samuel Pupo out surfed the raw power and experience of Ethan Ewing and Ramzi Boukhiam.
In one of the most dramatic heats of the day, Pupo tried his luck above the lip a couple of times, earning two average scores, but was the recent runner-up in Galicia, Marshall, who took the win. Anchoring his heat with a 7.10 for a two-turn backhand combo, the Californian, who has just moved into the QS Top 10, is looking to consolidate his position and add another big result to his resume this week.
"Pantin was an incredible run for me, but coming over here, it's a new event and a new wave, so you just kind of have to take the positive and start from scratch again," Marshall said afterwards. "I've got my brother and my dad here. It's my brother's first 6,000, so it's been really cool to have a family trip like this. We hadn't done it in a while. I'm not a veteran by any stretch, but I feel like I have learned a lot on the QS over a short period of time, so just to pass that on to him is awesome."
Portuguese superstar Frederico Morais launched his campaign on familiar soil with a dominant effort to move into Round 3. The strong regular-footer waited patiently in the lineup when a clean right rolled in his way. He dismantled it, posting a 7.00 as his opening score. Morais quickly backed up that main score and ran away with the win.
Straight off the plane from Japan where he competed in the ISA World Surfing Games, Morais wasted no time getting back in rhythm in the lineup as he focuses on getting back to the Championship Tour where he was a standout in 2017 and 2018.
Former Championship Tour surfer Wiggolly Dantas made a last-minute comeback to take the second advancing slot in Morais' heat with a deadly three-turn combo on his backhand. The Brasilian had been trailing for most of the heat and edged out fellow countryman Matheus Navarro to advance.
Marcos Correa put on a clinic in the small lefts and rights to post the event's highest combined heat total thus far with 15 points out of 20 possible. The Brasilian goofy was all over the place, in the lip, above the lip, on his forehand and backhand and looked unstoppable.
"I'm so stoked with my performance this morning in conditions like this," he said. "I've had a couple of good results on the QS and Pantin was my best so far so hopefully I can continue and add something here this week."
After a massive QS 10,000 leg in July where he reached the Semis and Quarters of the Ballito Pro and the US Open, respectively, Frenchman Jorgann Couzinet struggled to make any kind of progress in his bid to join the elite Top 34 in Pantin. The talented Reunion Island surfer powered his way through a high-scoring heat to take an important win ahead of Mitch Crews.
"I know I still need some big points to make it real so I want to make the Semis here at least," he said. "The next few days look good with more swell and it's always a pleasure being here surfing in shorts and having fun."
The day's biggest performance of the day was logged by Aussie Reef Heazlewood, who lit up both lefts and rights to earn a 15.84 heat total and take the win.
Conditions cooperated for awhile, but as the tide came up the waves slowed down and event officials called competition off after Heat 20, setting up the next call for Friday, 8:00am local time.
*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.*