After four action-packed days of competition, the winners of the LayBack Pro presented by Billabong will be decided on Sunday at Praia Mole in Florianópolis, Brazil. Solid sets in the 6-foot range (2 meters) and strong currents were on hand today with the Women's QS1000 Semifinalists and the Men's QS3000 Quarterfinalists decided in front of a packed audience on the beach.
Michael Rodrigues (BRA) and Laura Raupp (BRA) were the standout performers of the day, both earning excellent 9-point rides for the highest single-wave scored of the event.
Rodrigues, who currently resides in Florianópolis, once again displayed his local knowledge by surpassing his 8.50 high score on Friday with a 9.00 on Saturday after completing a huge frontside 3600 air and then finished it off with a massive hack on the closeout section.
"It feels great to be competing where I surf practically every day. But it's even better to have so much support on the beach with all my friends and family here to cheer me on. Even my mom is here, and it's been a really long time since she's seen me compete. So, things are going well and I feel blessed to be in this position," stated Rodrigues, whose only other career victory was also in Florianópolis in 2014. "It's still a little early to be thinking about winning the contest, especially with everyone surfing so well. And when you hold the highest score of the event, it's like a target is on your back. So, I just want to concentrate on the present and surf each wave to the best of my abilities."
Rodrigues will now face another Praia Mole local, José Francisco (BRA) in Heat 4 of the Quarterfinals. "Fininho" as Francisco is known by, also got the crowd on their feet after advancing into the quarters alongside "The Panda", Willian Cardoso (BRA). Cardoso will face Samuel Pupo (BRA) in Heat 3 of the Quarterfinals.
Another surfer known for his ability to create highlights during heats is Yago Dora (BRA), the number one seeded surfer of the event. After a slow start to the week, Dora has ramped up his surfing and has stunned the crowds at Praia Mole with his vertical carves and effortless airs. Dora will face Robson Santos (BRA) in Heat 2 of the Quarterfinals.
"The waves have gotten bigger all week long and I think it's great when you have waves like these at events. Conditions are still tough, but I'm stoked to be surfing well during my heats," said Dora. "It's such a good feeling to be seeing the crowds fill up the beach again and coming out to support us. I've really missed competing at home and I hope that the WSL continues to run contests here. Now in the next round, we go to man-on-man heats, so my strategy will change in comparison to 4-man heats. But as long as there are good waves like today, I'll only focus on surfing my best," completed Dora.
In the Women's QS1000, the Semifinalists will be a Peru vs Brazil affair to decide the Finalists at the LayBack Pro pres. by Billabong. But today belonged to 15-year-old Laura Raupp (BRA) who earned an amazing 9-point ride on a lefthander by smashing a closeout section with an extremely aggressive frontside hack. Raupp will now face 16-year-old Arena Vargas (PER) in Heat 1 of the Semifinals.
"I love surfing these types of waves. I think these conditions are great and I'm happy to be surfing well during my heats," said a cheerful Raupp. "I was only able to execute one maneuver on the waves I caught, but I hit the sections really hard, and I guess the judges liked what I did. This is my first ever QS event and it's something I've dreamed about for a long time. Now that I made it this far, I'm going to try to do my best to make it to the Final."
Summer Macedo (BRA) has been in full-blown competition mode after surfing at the Challenger Series events in the USA, Portugal and France. In the Quarterfinals, Macedo defeated Sophia Medina (BRA), the younger sister of the reigning three-time World Champion Gabriel Medina. Macedo has already competed at two regional Qualifying Series events in Ecuador, where she finished runner-up in both events in Montañita and Salinas, but now expects to take that next step to victory.
Asked if she felt at home in the heavier conditions at Praia Mole after growing up in Hawaii, Macedo had this to say:
"Actually, I think my experience in Saquarema has helped me more than Hawaii because Saquarema can get really heavy sometimes and I always pushed myself to go out last year no matter what, so the fear factor wasn't necessarily there for me, it was more if I could just get the waves that I wanted and perform in a way I'd be proud of, no matter the outcome."
And in regards to her consecutive runner-up finishes, Macedo has higher expectations at Praia Mole.
"You know, I'm not going to forget those two Finals ever because I had two chances to win and I didn't so I'm ready for it. I'm attracting it and hopefully this time I'll go one place higher," concluded Macedo.
On a day when your everyday surfer would think twice about paddling out in the heavy 6-foot sets, the packed beach at Praia Mole was taught a lesson in expanding one's limits after watching the Kizu Invitational, a two-heat specialty event featuring surfers with physical or visual impairment. Although some of the world's best surfers were pulling off some incredible maneuvers, by far the day's loudest cheers and applause took place during the Kizu Invitational.
Featuring well-known Brazilian adapted-surfers such as Derek Rabelo, who has surfed waves like Pipeline and Nazaré despite being clinically blind, Fellipe Kizu, a 3-time Waveski World Champion and Fidel Teixeira Lopes, who lost movement in his left arm after a motorcycle accident, not only was it the most inspiring moment of the contest, but an emotional tsunami overtook the crowded beach with many people shedding a tear after witnessing incredible feats of sheer courage and athleticism.
Today was an epic day of surfing for many reasons, but the Kizu Invitational was by far the most impressive and awe-inspiring moment of the LayBack Pro presented by Billabong.
A call is set for 8:00 am local time for Finals Day of the LayBack Pro presented by Billabong. Watch LIVE at WorldSurfLeague.com.