A pattern emerged early on with surfers wearing the blue jersey racking up the wins and sure enough it turned out to be more of a trend than a coincidence. Every single Quarterfinal matchup was won by the surfer in blue, some of these results being completely unforeseen by most.
The women's first two Quarterfinals were low scoring affairs as surfers struggled to find the right waves in the moving lineup of the incoming tide. Rachel Presti and Teresa Bonvalot took the wins with under 10 point totals and will meet in the Semis.
Mafalda Lopes on the other hand found the right gear in the wedging lefts as she put together great two-turn combos for a solid win over Janire Gonzalez Etxabarri) who opted to surf the rights and couldn't quite match the Portuguese's flair.
"That was a good heat, I got a high score early on and I should have tried to back it up quicker but I really wanted to get some of these little barrels," Lopes said. "I did manage to back it up eventually and I was pretty confident for the rest of the heat."
In the last Quarter, Pauline Ado was under the gun with only a couple of minutes on the clock, but Garazi Sanchez-Ortun's lead was precarious with only a small backup. The French surfer drew on a wealth of experience to find the right wave and when it manifested she performed a couple of good turns to post the winning 6.67 into the Semis.
"I started alright but I was struggling to improve on my scores," Ado explained. "So on that last opportunity I really tried to be more aggressive and fortunately it was enough. It's pretty stressful to be in that position in the end of a heat but I tried to keep my mind clear. Waves were quite tough to surf with that strong wind."
The men's Quarters resumed after a couple of hours on hold due to the high tide, and by the time competitors hit the lineup, waves started firing again. Frenchmen Maxime Huscenot and Charly Martin launched the round and it was an-all Huscenot show, the Reunion Island surfer with the best wave selection and an incredibly precise attack of the lefts on his backhand.
"It's good to make the Semis for the first time this year," Huscenot stated. "I just came from a Quarters result in France so hopefully I can go all the way here. We always have really intense battles with Charly, he won the last one we had in Israel at the last second and he's a really great competitor."
The dream run continued for 15 year-old Ryan Kainalo who eliminated one of the form surfers of the event so far, France's Jorgann Couzinet. The surfer from Ubatuba put together a smart heat and built house early on with some action on the insiders, then waited for a set and capitalized to distance himself from the longtime QS campaigner. The young regular foot is guaranteed his best-ever result on the Qualifying Series and could do more damage when the event finishes on Saturday.
"This is definitely the biggest result of my life," Kainalo stated. "I'm going to sleep well tonight and I'll be back on fire tomorrow cause I'm so happy and excited for the finals."
The final Call will be made at 7:45 a.m on Saturday for a potential finish of the events during the morning.
The Azores Islands Pro will unfold from November 1-6, 2021 and will be webcast LIVE at WorldSurfLeague.com.