weather : Sunny
programme : Victory for Hodei Collazo !
The performance level stepped into top gear at the Quiksilver Pro Portugal an Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) sanctioned Men's Star Series event with quarter-finalists decided in clean conditions at the main contest site of Ribeira D'Ilhas.
Long, lines in the 3ft (1m) range pushed down the point during the incoming tide to allow for an incredible display of modern progressive surfing during an intense morning session of competition. Favourites Tiago Pires (Ericeira, PRT) 30, Josh Kerr (Gold Coast, AUS) 26, and Jeremy Flores (Capbreton/New Caledonia, FRA) 22, along with standouts Gony Zubizarreta (Vigo, ESP) 25, Jonathan Gonzalez (Tenerife, CNY) 30, led the charge through to the quarter-finals of this $US145, 000 event.
Tiago Pires in the final heat of the day laid down a serious challenge to the Quiksilver Pro Portugal 2010 title with a totally commanding performance in the tricky high-tide conditions. Once again it was his local knowledge of the main break that marked the difference over his opponent Hugo Savalli (REU).
"Local knowledge I think plays a big role definitely when the high tide is a little tricky. I knew I had to wait for the waves that had a wall and a bit more power in it. Hugo went on the first one and I knew that the second one was going to be better so I just went for it. With that score it became a tough heat for Hugo after that one because there weren't many waves after."
Pires is aware that his nearest rivals are also in hot form and also have a building knowledge of the break. Relaxed and composed, Pires who has won twice before a major Star Series event on home soil, is aware of what is yet to come.
"I am just taking it heat by heat at this stage. I know they surf great and when they come my way I have to think about them but until then I want to improve my surfing. Get a feel of my board and some confidence and wait for the match-ups."
Josh Kerr blew away everyone with a mixture of powerful turns blended with varied aerial manoeuvres. Punching out a combined two-wave heat total of 18.23 out of 20, Kerr has firmed as favourite to make it back-to-back Star Series victories after his recent win in Canada. Conditions are expected to remain similar tomorrow allowing Kerr to pull his full repertoire of tricks out of the bag.
"I noticed the judges were scoring high the manoeuvres on the outside so my game plan was to do everything on the outside and not bother with the inside stuff. I stuck to the bigger ones and they seemed to have more power than the waves yesterday so stoked to be able to do a bottom turn." (laughs)
Jonathan Gonzalez (CNY) 30, is one step closer to possibly his best ever career result in a major Star Series contest. Pitted today against experienced campaigner Eneko Acero (EUK), Gonzalez answered back from the initial challenge laid down by his opponent's opening 8.67 ride. Waiting for the right wave and using his priority to perfection, Gonzalez sealed his win with some high-speed power gouges to nail a 9.23 out of 10.
"I was just trying to find a really good wave and it came right at the end with priority and it was bad luck for Eneko because he is a really great competitor but I am really stoked to get through."
With the correct equipment under his feet and his confidence growing with each heat win, Gonzalez has no excuses if aiming to achieve his goals.
"I have been trying for a long time to find a magic board for small waves and this is the one that does that for me. It's wide but not too thick and it feels good on the waves here. I hope I can win herebecause I have never won a 6-star rated event before so it could be a great result for me."
Gony Zubizarreta (ESP) was another standout performer on the long right-hand point break. Off to a flying start with an 8.33, Zubizarreta got lucky not to have been punished with a priority error late in the heat.
"I got a good one at the beginning and I knew Charlie was surfing really well and then I fell on my second wave which put a bit of pressure on me. He was surfing on the inside and getting a few scores so I knew it was going to be tough to hold the lead. I made a mistake on priority at the end of the heat too. I was on the peak alone and I got a wave and fell so Charlie got back the priority. I should've kicked out but you learn from these mistakes.
Zubizarreta has shown this week he has the fire power to take down even the highest rated opponent. Facing Tiago Pires (PRT) in quarter-final nº4 and having faced him on previous occasions the scene is set for a great showdown.
"Tiago has been ripping and I have surfed against him a couple of times here so it is great to surf against him at his home and I am looking forward to it."
Conditions are expected to hang in overnight allowing for a possible crowning of this year's Quiksilver Pro Portugal champion tomorrow lunch time. Event officials will make a first-call at 09:30 for a possible start shortly after to quarter-final nº1 with Jeremy Flores (FRA) up against Hodei Collazo (EUK).
Surfers competing in the Quiksilver Pro Portugal are out to claim valuable ASP World Ranking points in their endeavour to qualify for next year's elite ASP World Tour. European surfers are on stop nº 10 of 12 in their bid to claim this year's ASP European Men's Title currently lead by Marc Lacomare (FRA).