- WSL / Daniel Smorigo

Stellar conditions were on hand for Day 3 of the World Surf League (WSL) Saquarema Surf Festival in Memory of Leo Neves and presented by Prefeitura de Saquarema. The top seeds of the Men's QS 5000 excelled in the 4-6 foot waves and moderate offshore winds. Michael Rodrigues (BRA) was the day's standout surfer, earning a 17.10 (out of a possible 20 points) to set the new heat total record of the event so far.

"The waves have been incredible and I've been surfing since 5 am this morning. I've just been frothing out so much today and I just wanted the contest to start already. Saquarema is always amazing and today hasn't been anything different," said a stoked Rodrigues after advancing into the Round of 32.

Rodrigues is currently the highest ranked Brazilian surfer on the Challenger Series. Only the Top 10 athletes will qualify for the 2023 Championship Tour (CT).

"It's great to have a heat like this, but at the same time I don't want to peak too soon because there's still a long road ahead at this contest and there's also the Challenger Series event coming up soon as well," referred Rodrigues to the upcoming Corona Saquarema Pro, stop no. 6 of the Challenger Series scheduled for November 1 - 8.

Michael Rodrigues Michael Rodrigues (BRA) following his heat win at the Saquarema Surf Festival at Praia de Itaúna. - WSL / Thiago Diz

The 2015 WSL World Champion, Adriano de Souza (BRA), also made his return to Saquarema with a commanding heat win and advanced into the Round of 32 alongside local hero João Chianca (BRA).

"The talent level in my heat was off the charts, with former CT athletes, but the ocean is always the one who decides what will happen," said De Souza. "So instead of trying to play head games or get too invested in strategies, I just focused on the ocean, my surfing and thankfully, I caught the best waves of the heat for the win. Saquarema is the Mecca of surfing in Brazil and it's even more special to have the event in memory of Leo Neves, who was part of the Tour when I came on, so it's great to celebrate his life," concluded De Souza.

Adriano de Souza The 2015 WSL World Champion Adriano de Souza (BRA) advanced at the Saquarema Surf Festival at Praia de Itaúna - WSL / Daniel Smorigo

Leo Neves' son, Valentin Neves (BRA), has followed in his father's footsteps by becoming a professional surfer and has made a name for himself the past few seasons on the WSL South America Qualifying Series.

He currently sits in 15th on the regional rankings and needs to crack the Top 8 for a chance at the 2023 Challenger Series.

"I've been trying to maintain my focus but competing at this event at home and honoring my father is a lot harder than you'd think," said Neves. "Surfing in front of my hometown crowd adds a lot of pressure, plus trying to represent my family just makes it even more difficult. I need a good result here to qualify for the Challenger Series next year, so I'll keep doing my best and hopefully make the Final, which is my goal."

Valentin Neves Valentin Neves (BRA) on Day 3 of the Saquarema Surf Festival at Praia de Itaúna. - WSL / Daniel Smorigo

A call is set for 8:00 AM (GMT-3) on Thursday for continuation of the Saquarema Surf Festival. A large portion of tomorrow's competition will focus on the Men's and Women's JQS 1000 categories. The Men's division will be first in the water and will see an all-Brazilian line-up in Heat 6 of the Round of 48 featuring Kayan Medeiros (BRA), Samuel Joquinha (BRA), Guilherme Ferreira (BRA) and Luan Ferreyra De Assis (BRA).

Saquarema Surf Festival A view of the event site at the Saquarema Surf Festival at Praia de Itaúna. - WSL / Daniel Smorigo

The Saquarema Surf Festival in memory of Leo Neves is licensed by WSL Latin America to 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 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 partnerships from Ricosurf.com, Waves, Lance!, Rádio Cidade, the Rio de Janeiro Surf Federation (FESERJ) and the Saquarema Surf Association. The event is broadcast live on WorldSurfLeague.com.

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