The EDP Billabong Pro Ericeira kicked off today in four-to-five foot surf and fired through Round 1 and seven heats of Round 2.
The morning heats were tricky with drizzle, fog and a full tide. Matheus Navarro found the winning formula as he landed a couple of big turns for the first excellent score of the event, an 8.17 to advance into Round 2.
Former CT surfer Ethan Ewing connected with the lip as well, posting an 8.33 in the opening heat of Round 2. It was the first of a series of upsets as he took out World No. 16 Wade Carmichael. It also kicked off a dominant run from Australian athletes, quickly picked up by Matt Banting in the following heat.
"The wind's coming into the face so it's good be regular-foot to look at the opportunities coming ahead instead of having your back facing it," explained Banting. "I know I need to improve my lowest result by at least 1,000 points or even 2,000 to solidify my spot up there. It'd be nice not to worry about it going into Hawaii. I feel like I've had a little bit of that underdog support online, that's one thing social media is good for, that and looking at other guys surf and getting excited for it."
After that it was up-and-coming talents Morgan Cibilic and Jordan Lawler eliminating another CT surfer, Soli Bailey. The two surfers ranked 22nd and 23rd, respectively, have both rocketed into the spotlight courtesy of big results in 2019 will bank confidence from this heat as they try to further climb up the QS ladder.
As the weather cleared mid-afternoon and the wind switched more offshore, the waves cleaned up, the tide bottomed out and there were more opportunities on offer. The two recent semifinalists in Azores Miguel Pupo and Gatien Delahaye picked up right where they left off and put on a dominant effort to take out the two advancing spots in Heat 6.
"I think 2011, the year I qualified, is the last time I made big heats back-to-back like this," Pupo said. "It feels good to be back in that form cause I've really been struggling the last few years. After the Australian leg I stayed home for three months and decided to focus on only the biggest events and luckily that move paid off for me."
Conditions continued to build, and in the next heat Californian Nat Young attacked the rights on his backhand, posting a solid heat win over fellow West Coaster Jake Marshall, who's been on a roll lately. With two wins under his belt already this season, Young is hanging by a thread right outside the bubble on the QS and needs another big push if he wants to re-join the elite level next season.
"It's nice to come back here and have good waves to start the event," he said. "I definitely have surfed my fair share of rights, so it feels like home and it's super nice to have plenty of opportunities out there. I feel good and there's plenty of swell in the forecast, so I'm looking forward to surfing more heats here in good surf."
With a combination of light fog and side light later this afternoon, the glare became an issue for judges and competition was called off at the end of Heat 7. Surfers will be back at 8 a.m Wednesday local time for a potential early re-start of Round 2 in Ericeira.
Tune in from September 23-29, 2019 for the LIVE webcast and check out all the results, photos, videos and updates right here!