Competitors arrived at Praia Mole to find a significant increase in swell with solid waves in the 4-6 foot range (1.5 - 2 meters) and light to moderate onshore winds for Day 3 of the LayBack Pro presented by Billabong. The event's top seeds had the chance to get into the mix at the Men's QS3000 which resulted in high scores, major maneuvers and powerful hacks throughout the day.
Former Championship Tour surfer Michael Rodrigues (BRA) hails from the north of Brazil, but has been residing in Florianópolis for the past few years. His familiarity with the waves at Praia Mole was evident as he led his heat from start to finish and earned an impressive heat total of a 16.30 (8.50 + 7.80) for the highest heat total of the event so far. Rodrigues easily advanced into the Round of 32 with João Chianca (BRA) also advancing in second place after landing a last-second Hail Mary air.
"I'm so stoked to be competing at home after a very long and difficult trip to California and Europe for the Challenger Series events. It's been a blessing to come back here, recuperate mentally and physically because I really want to go far in this contest," said Rodrigues. "I don't want to depend on scores to win heats. What I really want to do is surf better than my opponents. That's my focus. I surf at this break every single day, so I felt very comfortable before paddling out. I think local knowledge really helped me out in terms of positioning and catching the right waves."
Another top seed that looked completely at home was CT surfer Miguel Pupo (BRA), who took out the first heat of the day alongside Wesley Leite (BRA), eliminating two of the most lethal local surfers from the competition: Lucas Vicente (BRA) and Mateus Herdy (BRA); both former WSL World Junior Champions.
"It's so good to be back competing at Praia Mole, it's a place that's really special to me. I think the first QS event I ever competed in was here, so it'll always have a special place in my heart," said Pupo. "It's been eleven years since the last event was held here, so I'm happy that I won my first heat back. All of the athletes, fans and the surf community have been really missing the events in Brazil, so I'd like to thank LayBack for putting this together. It almost feels a little nostalgic with the mini ramp setup behind the site and a packed beach. The team at LayBack brought the essence of surf comps back with the event and I hope it continues for a long time."
One of the most anticipated heats of the day was Heat 8 of the Round of 64 that matched up one of the most talented surfers on the CT, Yago Dora (BRA) against Jackson Dorian (HAW), son of Hawaiian legend Shane Dorian, as well as former CT surfer Raoni Monteiro (BRA) and one of the most promising young Brazilian surfers, Fernando Junior (BRA).
In these heavier beach-break conditions, it was the veteran Monteiro that smashed the waves at Praia Mole with massive frontside hacks, powerful laybacks and committed turns throughout the heat to take first place. Despite seeming a tad out of rhythm, Dora slid past in second place by defeating Dorian and Junior.
"It's been so many years of competing professionally that you kind of know what you have to do to advance," said Monteiro, one of surfing's ambassadors from Saquarema. "But that doesn't mean it makes it any easier, especially against someone like Yago, who's been surfing incredibly on the CT, plus Jackson ad Fernando who are super talented youngsters that are going to give people a very hard time in the future. I surf every day in Saquarema, train hard and try to keep my mind in the right place. I think when we're happy, we surf easier, without any pressure to justify yourself to anyone. I've been surfing with this internal happiness and it's been working out," concluded Monteiro.
In the Women's QS1000 division, the Quarterfinalists have been determined with all athletes representing either Brazil or Peru. However, there will be friendly fire on both sides to see who will make it to Finals Day on Sunday.
In Heat 1 of the Quarterfinals, an in-form Daniella Rosas (PER) will face Arena Rodriguez Vargas (PER). Heat 2 will see two of the best young surfers from Brazil featuring Laura Raupp (BRA) against Isabelle Nalu (BRA). Heat 3 will provide fireworks with Gabriel Medina's younger sister Sophia Medina (BRA) matched up against the powerful Hawaiian-Brazilian Summer Macedo (BRA) and the round will wrap up with Melanie Giunta (PER) against another extremely talented Peruvian, Sol Aguirre (PER).
Surfing is one of those sports that levels the socio-economic playing field. In the ocean, everyone is equal and is the ideal democratic platform for equality, inclusion and the opportunity to bring people together through a sport that relies entirely on mother nature and your own individual stoke, regardless of your talent level; be it a beginner or a pro.
This afternoon, over 60 children from the Bairro Educador social program came to visit the event site at the Layback Pro presented by Billabong at Praia Mole. The program is run by the City of Florianópolis and provides a variety of sports and educational programs (including surfing) to under-privileged youths from local communities.
Needless to say, the kids had a blast watching the competition, skating the mini ramp, playing soccer and hanging out with WSL athletes and staff including Mateus Herdy (BRA), Ian Gouveia (BRA) and Marina Werneck (BRA). You never know what can spark a child's interest to pursue a new career path or hobby, but by the look on their faces, surfing has already made a positive impact in their lives.
A call is set for 8:00 am local time for continuation of the Layback Pro presented by Billabong. Watch all the action LIVE on WorldSurfLeague.com.