It was a long, stop-and-start day at Ribeira D'Ilhas in Ericeira, but by the time the sun dipped into the Atlantic, the lineup for the final day of the MEO Portugal Cup of Surfing was locked in and Championship Tour stars Kanoa Igarashi and Leonardo Fioravanti were leading the charge.
Putting in the performance of the day, Igarashi, who can see the break from his nearby house, took on rising star Gatien Delahaye from Guadeloupe. Delahaye put a four-point ride on the board straight out of the gate, but leaning on his CT experience, Igarashi sat and waited almost halfway through the heat before he clicked into a beautiful long right-hander. Ripping a series of full-speed, committed turns, he posted an 8.50 to put Delahaye in his rearview mirror.
"I just tried to treat it like another afternoon session, I would have surfed out here anyway," said a very relaxed Igarashi, who was clearly in the groove.
Igarashi's good buddy Leonardo Fioravanti also got off on the good foot against local hero Henrique Pyrrait. Despite it being his birthday, Pyrrait wasn't able to overcome Fioravanti's steady, consistent pressure and find the waves he needed to overtake the Italian.
"I'm stoked to be competing in Portugal, I love this place," said Fioravanti, who's currently based in Hossegor, but like Igarashi, has a house nearby.
In a replay of their Semifinal clash in France last week, Fioravanti set up a grudge match against World Champ Italo Ferreira in the Quarters when competition resumes. Igarashi will take on France's Maxime Huscenot.
Besides the CT stars shining, Portuguese fans had a lot to cheer about as a number of local men and women rallied to earn themselves a ticket to Finals day. Resident icon Frederico Morais squared off against 16-year-old local Afonso Antunes, and while the heat was slow, it did provide a glimpse into the past, present and future of Portuguese surfing. Morais, who's CT bound in 2021, won the heat, but for Antunes, who's dad was a prominent Portuguese pro in the ‘80s, the experience will serve him well as his competitive career is just getting off the ground.
Local hero Vasco Ribeiro, sporting a fresh haircut after clipping his frosted tips overnight, came out swinging against Jadson Andre. Hammering a series of aggressive frontside turns, he posted an 8.07 to take a commanding lead. That left Andre needing a high seven-point ride in the waning moments, which he was unable to conjure.
"Its always hard to surf against Jadson, he's one of the best by far, but I'm not worried about anyone. You have to focus on yourself," said Ribeiro, who won his Junior World Title here at the 2014 Allianz ASP World Junior Championships.
In the women's Elimination Round earlier in the day the Portuguese flag was flying as three out of the four surfers to advance were from the host country. Camila Cardoso, Yolanda Hopkins and Carolina Mendes all advanced to Finals days. Mendes stole the show when she literally dry-docked herself on a well-ridden 7.33. Untangling herself and her board from the rocks on the inside, she wasn't rattled in the slightest as she paddled back out and won the heat. The Basque Country's Nadia Erostarbe rounded out the women's field.
Based on the forecast, it looks like winners will be crowned tomorrow. With a new swell on the horizon and a long, full day of action left, Ferreira and Johanne Defay will be looking to keep their number one status and claim back-to-back victories. But there's tons of talent left in the draw, and as anyone that's watched a comp in Portugal knows, anything can happen.