The gifts just kept coming at the Oaxaca Pro QS 1,500 pres. by Corona with Puerto Escondido's famed Playa Zicatela delivering more six-to-eight foot swell for competitors to throw themselves over the ledge on. Those who happened to be in the right spot and muster the will to do so found themselves in hollow caverns that repeatedly spat from the inside out.
Before onshore winds plagued the lineup with just one heat in Round 4 remaining, competition fired through Round 3 Heats 13 - 16 and Round 4 Heats 1 - 7 to set up the home stretch before Saturday's action determines the finals day draw.
Nick Marshall got a taste of what Playa Zicatela can deliver in Thursday's action but found himself completely covered by a gem to earn a near-perfect 9.43 just five-minutes into his Round 4 heat. Marshall's 15.33 (out of a possible 20) heat total was one of the day's best as he continued to scour the lineup for barrels and cemented himself atop the heat. This marks the 18-year-old's first time in Puerto Escondido and he's already shown his prowess.
"I'm so stoked that came right to me and didn't have to do much, just let the wave do its thing and glad I made it out," Marshall said. "It doesn't get any better than surfing a competition that has pumping waves, it's my favorite. I definitely like the left a little more, the backside might need a bit of work, so I'll just keep going left as long as I can (laughs). It feels good to get some good scores and keep moving forward."
From Winning a Regional Pro Junior Title to Getting Near-Perfection on the QS
Fresh off receiving the 2019 North America Regional Pro Junior Title, Kade Matson brought that confidence into his Round 3 debut and Round 4 battle. The 17-year-old had to face a heavily-qualified barrel contingent including John Mel, Wesley Santos and Puerto Escondido's own Angelo Lozano but found a near-perfect 9.00 midway through the heat to plant himself in a firm lead. In the end it was Mel's buzzer-beater that earned a California sweep over the Brazilian and Mexican competitors as Matson continues to surge.
"This is my first time here and I'm baffled on how good it is," Matson said . "It's such a fun wave and it's the same as the best day of the year at home so to be able to surf this in a heat is amazing. I didn't no what to expect and as soon as I saw the waves I just wanted to have fun and get as barreled as I could."
Panama's Jose Broce and Chilean Duo Excel
Also making his mark in Round 3, Jose Broce posted the day's highest heat total of a 15.44 after finding a hollow lefthander he came flying out of before finishing the wave off. The Playa Venao, Panama, native secured his place into the final heat of Round 4 and awaits his next appearance for a shot at the Round of 16 set to run Saturday. This is the 29-year-old's first-ever QS event and looks well-equipped to earn the title of event threat.
"It was such a surprise because those waves came just in the perfect moment and I knew I had the chance to get the scores I needed to advance," Broce said. "I'm excited because these waves are the ones that impress the judges, the audience enjoys them and family and friends feel proud when they see you doing the best you can."
The Chilean duo of Nicolas Vargas and Manuel Selman both steamrolled through their respective heats as Vargas found two 7-point rides of his own. The lefthander of Punto de Lobos, Chile, has helped Vargas groom his forehand attack as well as navigating through barrels and that prowess was on full display.
"It's so perfect to get two good scores in these waves with big lefts on offer," Vargas said. "I always prefer the lefts. I was just in the right spot when the waves came and I'm super happy to make that heat - now it's time to get ready for the next one. Manuel (Selman) and I travel together to events all the time so I'm always really happy for him when he makes his heats. Hopefully we can both make it to finals day."
Alan Cleland recovered from nearly being eliminated in Thursday's proceedings to thriving in Round 4. The Pascuales, Mexico, native had the crowd behind him as he came flying out of the heavy-sectioned lefthanders to their applause and an impressive performance to shift his momentum.
"It feels amazing after having a shocker heat in my first round and actually get some scores while finding some little barrels," Cleland said. "I almost feel like I'm surfing at home sitting in the water. I've been coming here for about five years and I just love the waves out here. This is one of the best waves in the world and to have a contest here is as good as it gets. It's so humbling to have this event at a place where you can just have fun with it and get barreled at the same time."
Also earning critical spots into Round 5; Californians continued to push with Jacob Szekely, Colt Ward, Jackson Butler, Jett Schilling, Kei Kobayashi and Skip McCullough all through along with Puerto Rico's Dwight Pastrana.
Event organizers will convene at 7:00am CDT for a possible start to Round 4 Heat 8.
The Oaxaca Pro QS 1,500 pres. by Corona will run October 17-20 at Playa Zicatela, Puerto Escondido, Mexico.