Sunny skies, moderate winds and waves in the 3-5 foot range were on hand at Praia de Itaúna for Day 1 of the World Surf League (WSL) Saquarema Surf Festival in Memory of Leo Neves and presented by Prefeitura de Saquarema. The event is the most important of the 2022/23 WSL South America regional calendar and will host combined men's and women's QS 5000, Longboard LQS 1000 and Junior JQS 1000 competitions throughout the event window.
Monday focused solely on the opening rounds of the Men's QS 5000 and saw former Championship Tour (CT) athlete Peterson Crisanto (BRA) win the first heat of the day.
"I won the first heat of the day in the morning, then advanced again in the afternoon, so I'm pretty stoked," said Crisanto. "I've always had good memories of competing here in Saquarema, so it feels great to be back in this surfing paradise. I think it's great that the event is honoring Leo Neves, he was inspirational to a lot of surfers, he's always had a go-for-it attitude, and we all miss him a lot," stated Crisanto on the late Neves, who passed away in 2019 while competing at a contest in Saquarema.
Crisanto advanced into the Round of 64 and will face a stacked heat featuring the 2015 World Champion Adriano de Souza (BRA), local hero João Chianca (BRA) and the Uruguayan Marco Giorgi (URY).
With 5,000 points on offer, the Saquarema Surf Festival will likely shake up the WSL South America regional rankings. Igor Moraes (BRA) arrived in 10th place on the rankings, but only the Top 8 Men will qualify for the 2023 Challenger Series. Moraes advanced in 1st place in his heat alongside Giovani Pontes (BRA).
"I feel like I used a different strategy than most people today. I surfed further down the beach and was able to find the best waves of the heat. This is definitely the most important contest of the year for me and hopefully I can be in a position to qualify for the Challenger Series after this event," said Moraes.
Another standout surfer today was Luel Felipe (BRA) who also advanced into the Round of 64 with stellar performances in his heats.
"Honestly, I'm exhausted. I only decided to compete here last minute, so I arrived late last night, then woke up super early for a session this morning and then straight into my heat. I had a quick rest, then came back for another heat, so I'm really tired, but feel justified for all the hard work as well," said Felipe. "I think my style of surfing fits well with the waves here, I love Saquarema and I hope to do well."
Tuesday will begin with the Women's QS 5000 at 8:00 AM (GMT-3). The top regional athletes will be fighting for qualification for next year's Challenger Series and include the likes of Silvana Lima (BRA), Sophia Medina (BRA), Sol Aguirre (PER), Dominic Barona (ECU) and the newest member of the Brazilian Storm, Luana Silva (BRA). Pictured:
On Tuesday afternoon, the Men's and Women's Longboard division will also take to the water and will feature top names such as Chloe Calmon (BRA), Phil Rajzman (BRA), Rodrigo Sphaier (BRA) and Piccolo Clemente (PER).
The Saquarema Surf Festival in memory of Leo Neves is licensed by WSL Latin America for 213 Sports as a Qualifying Series event and includes WSL South America regional qualifiers for the Junior and Longboard World Championships. The event is presented by the City of Saquarema City and is sponsored by 51 ICE, Stanley, Surf Trip, Quiksilver, ROXY, Oakley, Layback Beer; in addition to the support of Monster Energy, New Era, Australian Gold, Bold Snacks, Castelhana Praia Hotel; with media partnership from Ricosurf.com, Waves, Lance!, Rádio Cidade, the Rio de Janeiro Surf Federation (FESERJ) and the Saquarema Surf Association. The competition is broadcast live on WorldSurfLeague.com.