Sunny skies, light winds, warm water and waves in the 3-4 foot range (1 metre) greeted the assembly of 96 international surfers competing at the iconic Itauna, Brazil for the first prime-rated event of the 2014 ASP Men's Qualification Series (QS). The 2014 ASP Quiksilver Saquarema Prime presented by Powerade was the first ASP event to use a four-man priority system during heats, eliminating the tendency for hassling for waves. Current WCT athlete Filipe Toledo (BRA) scored the day's highest single wave with an 8.77 in the opening heat of the event.
"It's funny because I was the only one that wanted it," said Toledo. "(David do Carmo (BRA) and Keanu Asing (HAW)) took a look at it and let it pass. I was relieved that they didn't paddle for it and it really stood up for me. All I had to do was complete my turns."
Toledo is included in the group of 15 of the Top 34 surfers on the 2014 Samsung Galaxy ASP World Championship Tour (WCT) who are participating in the Quiksilver Saquarema Prime. In addition to Toledo, the other WCT surfers who will advance to Round 2 are fellow Brazilians Adriano de Souza, Alejo Muniz and Jadson Andre, along with Dion Atkinson (AUS), Jeremy Flores (FRA) and Tiago Pires (PRT).
"I was ready to surf one type of wave and I ended up surfing conditions that were completely different in my heat," Pires said. "I needed a little bit more drive to make my carves more drawn out. Luckily, I got through that first heat and I can reflect on my performance tonight and try to do better tomorrow (Wednesday)."
De Souza, who sits in sixth place in the 2014 WCT rankings, is currently in the top position of the QS rankings. After winning the 6-Star Australian Open of Surfing in Sydney, he placed third at the 6-Star event in Newcastle and fortified his results with a fifth place finish at the ASP 5-Star event at Pipeline, Hawaii. Most recently, he finished an even ninth at the WCT Billabong Rio Pro.
"I'm just happy to be able to be here competing, because last week was very difficult for me after I suffered an injury to my thigh," de Souza said. "Actually, I'm not even thinking much about my injury and just being in the water and surfing great waves here at Itauna is a victory for me."
Only the top 10 ranked surfers on the QS will be entitled to compete on the 2015 WCT Dream Tour. Competition is grueling and traveling worldwide from event to event can be demanding, but the prestige of reaching the elite class of surfers is a goal for every professional on tour.
Nathan Hedge (AUS) and Do Carmo, who occupied third place and 13th place respectively on the QS, were both defeated in Round 1 and will lose ground in the standings. Yet others like Tomas Hermes (BRA), Charles Martin (GLP), Patrick Gudauskas (USA), Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) and Peterson Crisanto (BRA) all remain in competition and are looking to advance their spots on the rankings.
"This contest is very important for everybody since it's the first Prime event of the year," Gudauskas said. "Although the sets take a while to come in, there are good waves around and I'm looking for some good lefts that open up to keep on making it into the next rounds."
Another former WCT surfer on the comeback trail is Dusty Payne (HAW), who also qualified for Round 2 alongside Hermes.
"Today was typical Itauna. There were heats with incredible waves followed by some slower heats without many sets," Hermes said. "It's kind of similar to Haleiwa: you need some patience because the waves here in Saquarema are great."
The 2014 ASP Quiksilver Saquarema Prime presented by Powerade is brought to you by the Brazilian Association of Surfing Professionals (ABRASP) and sponsored by the State of Rio de Janeiro, the City of Saquarema, Powerade, Quiksilver, Peugeot and Barra GR Hygiene and Cleaning and is supported by CCR Via Lagos, the Rio de Janeiro Surf Federation (FESERJ) and the Saquarema Surf Association (ASS). The event is organized by the ASP South America as the first 2014 ASP World Prime event and offers U$ 250,000 in prize money and 6,500 points towards the ASP Qualifying Series ranking. The Quiksilver Saquarema Prime is broadcast live via: www.aspworldtour.com