No competitor should complain about doing the ASP qualifying events for a long time. For years, surfers bemoaned the old WQS and now the star-rated and prime events, for their less than stellar waves. This week there's a four-star happening at the reeling Punta Roca pointbreak in El Salvador. But more so, Surfer's Beach fired today at the Mr. Price Pro Ballito -- really fired, with massive grinding eight-foot tubes racing down the line.
"These waves are just unbelievable, it's one of the most enjoyable events I've surfed in so I'm frothing," Patrick Gudauskas said.
The San Clemente boy is pretty much always frothing, but you get the picture.
"I knew this wave had some juice and I'm riding a step-up designed for a more hollow, powerful wave so I'm lucky I packed it."
Gudauskas, the last mainland US surfer standing since the early rounds, took second to Brazil's Junior Faria by 1.4 points, and then had to surf the elimination round of 12. He didn't seem to mind, as it was just another chance to surf those gapers. There, he beat proven heavy wave competitor and last year's Pipe Masters runner up, Kieren Perrow. Perrow had posted a 9.27, which Gudauskas answered with a 9.40, taking a steep late drop into a draining barrel. Every day of competition, Gudauskas has come out of some harrowing death pit.
Defending champ, Jordy Smith, continued to shine, going right to the quarterfinals on a 6'4" step up board that his father brought down for him on Thursday. One of his two bombs was particularly hairy and he earned a 9.8, the highest wave score of the day.
"I knew that one wave was a pretty heavy wave and I thought either I'll get a massive score or I'll get a massive beat down and as it turned out I got both," Smith said.
Other marquis standouts today included Hawaii's John John Florence and Australian World Tour rookie, Julian Wilson. Wilson had poor results to start this year, but won the Quiksilver Pro Portugal last month and looks in top form in South Africa.
Florence called the surf today, "a lot like the barrels at Backdoor. It's big and round and maybe a little bit faster and longer. I came here a few years ago and it got pretty big, so I brought my Pipe boards and I'm happy I did."
Florence's 18.43 point heat total was the highest of the day, as he rode some truly monumental caverns.
Junior Faria and Heath Joske, who called the conditions a "surfer's dream," went straight to the quarterfinal with Smith, who will face Jesse Mendes and Florence, who has to deal with Blake Thorton.
Once again, the swell looks to be up tomorrow for the quarters through the final, and also the South African Legends exhibit, where Shaun Tomson and other revered countrymen will take a shot at this epic surf.
Whatever you do, don't call it a slog.
2011 Mr. Price Pro Ballito Results
Non-Elimination Round of 12
Heat 1: Junior Faria (BRA) 12.83; Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 11.44; Jesse Mendes(BRA) 5.20pts
Heat 2: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 14.97; Shaun Joubert (ZAF) 5.03; Kieren Perrow (AUS) 4.40pts
Heat 3: Heath Joske (AUS) 15.40; Julian Wilson (AUS) 15.24; Blake Thornton (AUS) 10.20
Heat 4: John John Florence (HAW) 18.43; Kai Otton (AUS) 15.23; Jano Belo (BRA) 2.00
Elimination Round of 12
Heat 1: Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 13.90 def Kieren Perrow (AUS) 13.44
Heat 2: Jesse Mendes (BRA) 13.50 def Shaun Joubert (ZAF) 12.26
Heat 3: Julian Wilson (AUS) 15.53 def Jano Belo (BRA) 9.00
Heat 4: Blake Thornton (AUS) 8.37 def Kai Otton (AUS) 7.84
Quarterfinal match ups:
QF1: Junior Faria (BRA) vs Patrick Gudauskas (USA)
QF 2: Jordy Smith (ZAF) vs Jesse Mendes (BRA)
QF 3: Heath Joske (AUS) vs Julian Wilson (AUS)
QF 4: John John Florence (HAW) vs Blake Thornton (AUS)