By all accounts, the Billabong Azores Islands Pro Prime event shouldn't be very interesting to surf fans. There are no lurching slabs, no angry webcast interviews, and no world title contenders there. But part of the objective of the big changes the ASP made in 2010 was to creaet bigger qualifying events that were more exciting to the world, not just the local folk who wandered down to the contest every year. The idea was to make a few Primes mandatory for the World Tour studs, forcing them to tangle with hungry qualifiers. At this point in the year, most of surfing's apex predators have already done their required hunting in the smaller seas, but there's still World Tour talent and unfolding drama.
These days, fans from Brazil to Boston are all watching, and with today's action on Praia de Santa Barbara, in the Azores, a picturesque chain off Portugal, it's no wonder. Because of the focus on the early Primes, we're all following Kolohe Andino, Miguel Pupo, John John Florence and other top youngsters. Plus you have Fred Patacchia and Brett Simpson, who are making up for time on the injured list. And we're now watching CJ Hobgood fight to requalify after ten years on tour. And really, who doesn't want to watch Mark Occhilupo still mixing it up?
The conditions were exciting, but ever-changing, for round one and the first several heats of round two. With overhead sets and winds shifting back and forth, there were ramps-a-plenty and even cover-ups, if not a few draining barrel sections. The highest scores came early in round one. The only 10-point banger went to Adam Melling for a gorgeous frontside tube. It wasn't a bad outing for "Never Say Die" Gabe Kling either. Kling ceded his slot on the tour after a flat first half of the season. He posted a 9.87 for his backside display on a well-overhead wave, en route to an 18.47 total.
"It was looking a little suspect but the wind turned and the tide dropped and it was fun. I got two good ones and then that left came in. It is not often you get three really good waves in a heat. With 30-minute heats you can kink of sit back and wait for them to come to you. It seemed like there were a lot of scores and a lot of waves all round. It is going off so you want those kinds of heats," said Kling.
Occhilupo, a late entry, powered his way through, in every sense of the word, taking second to Patacchia. Miguel Pupo, Heitor Alves, Nat Young, and Tanner Guduasakas all looked sharp, taking first in their heats, as did that Kiwi one-two punch of Richard Christie and Jay Quinn. Andino lit it up in his short shorts. John John Florence was eliminated in round one.
The early standouts just held on for the second round. Miguel Pupo has been the standout of round two thus far, showing off expert railwork on his forehand for a 9.5, actually beating Kling. Nate Yeomens came alive to beat Adam Melling. Both Kling and Melling will advance, however.
The Women wrapped up their own 6-star as well, confirming the Top 17 ladies to compete on the Womens Tour. 18-year-old Malia Manuel, of Hawaii, took the event over Aussie, Felicity Palmateer yesterday. Manuel also won the event in Pantin Spain, last week. She will now join the Womens tour, along with fellow rookies Lakey Peterson, Sage Erickson, and Justine Dupont.
"It feels surreal right now. I had struggled at the beginning of the year and then come to Europe and wind two events in a row is just extraordinary. I don't know what to say. I am so happy we had waves and it was a great final. To win back-to-back feels really good," Manuel laughed.
Mens round two will likely continue tomorrow with heat five.
Upcoming ASP PRIME Billabong Azores Islands Pro Round Two Matchups
Heat 5: Jesse Mendes (BRA), Gabriel Villaran (PER), Glen Hall (IRL), Jano Belo (BRA)
Heat 6: Leonardo Neves (BRA), Hodei Collazo (EUK), Jayke Sharp (AUS), Heitor Alves (BRA)
Heat 7: Romain Cloitre (REU), Marlon Lipke (DEU), Brian Toth (PRI), Mark Occhilupo (AUS)
Heat 8: Brett Simpson (USA), Marco Polo (BRA), Tanner Gadauskas (USA), Fredrick Patacchia (HAW)
Heat 9: Mitch Coleborn (AUS), Kolohe Andino (USA), Dion Atkinson (AUS), Jonathan Gonzalez (CNY)
Heat 10: Tim Boal (FRA), Kai Barger (HAW), Nat Young (USA), Travis Logie (ZAF)
Heat 11: Tonino Benson (HAW), Shaun Joubert (ZAF), Masatoshi Ohno (JPN), Pat Gudauskas (USA)
Heat 12: William Cardoso (BRA), C.J. Hobgood (USA), Tiago Camarao (BRA), Joan Duru (FRA)
ASP PRIME Billabong Azores Islands Pro Round Two Results
Heat 1: Miguel Pupo (BRA) 16.43, Gabe Kling (USA) 14.97, Jeronimo Vargas (BRA) 10.80, Chris Friend (AUS) 9.44
Heat 2: Nate Yeomans (USA) 14.50, Adam Melling (AUS) 13.80, Adam Robertson (AUS) 13.60, Kevin Sullivan (HAW) 8.50
Heat 3: Richard Christie (NZL) 14.66, Marc Lacomare (FRA) 13.93, Kai Otton (AUS) 4.93, Dale Staples (ZAF) 4.77
Heat 4: Alain Riou (PYF) 13.40, Jay Quinn (NZL) 11.93, Adrien Toyon (REU) 11.87, Mitch Crews (AUS) 10.87
Remaining ASP PRIME Billabong Azores Islands Pro Round One Results
Heat 7: Jay Quinn (NZL) 10.26, Dale Staples (ZAF) 8.57, Junior Faria (BRA) 5.89
Heat 8: Mitch Crews (AUS) 14.03, Kai Otton (AUS) 13.70, Stuart Kennedy (AUS) 12.74, Justin Mujica (PRT) 6.83
Heat 9: Jesse Mendes (BRA) 13.16, Leonardo Neves (BRA) 11.13, Brendon Gibbens (ZAF) 9.36, Charlie Brown (BRA) 8.90
Heat 10: Gabriel Villaran (PER) 12.44, Hodei Collazo (EUK) 10.97, Cory Lopez (USA) 10.50, Vincent Duvignac (FRA) 9.04
Heat 11: Jayke Sharp (AUS) 13.76, Glen Hall (IRL) 13.40, Heath Joske (AUS) 8.80, Diego Rosa (BRA) 8.26
Heat 12: Heitor Alves (BRA) 12.50, Jano Belo (BRA) 10.87, Nathaniel Curran (USA) 7.96, Ruben Gonzalez (PRT) 7.84
Heat 13: Romain Cloitre (REU) 15.20, Brett Simpson (USA) 13.20, Brandon Jackson (ZAF) 4.96, Richie Collins (USA) 4.14
Heat 14: Marlon Lipke (DEU) 14.70, Marco Polo (BRA) 14.27, Aritz Aranburu (EUK) 8.97, Royden Bryson (ZAF) 8.33
Heat 15: Tanner Gadauskas (USA) 14.70, Brian Toth (PRI) 12.33, Alex Ribeiro (BRA) 10.77, Dylan Graves (PRI) 8.41
Heat 16: Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 11.60, Mark Occhilupo (AUS) 10.53, Matt Pagan (USA) 10.50, Lincoln Taylor (AUS) 9.84
Heat 17: Mitch Coleborn (AUS) 15.73, Tim Boal (FRA) 11.83, John John Florence (HAW) 11.53
Heat 18: Kolohe Andino (USA) 15.34, Kai Barger (HAW) 14.36, Eneko Acero (EUK) 12.50, Andre Silva (BRA) 11.27
Heat 19: Nat Young (USA) 14.10, Dion Atkinson (AUS) 10.93, Evan Geiselman (USA) 10.73, Cory Arrambide (USA) 4.97
Heat 20: Travis Logie (ZAF) 12.00, Jonathan Gonzalez (CNY) 10.97, Noboyuki Osawa (JPN) 9.47, Tomas Hermes (BRA) 6.76
Heat 21: Tonino Benson (HAW) 14.26, William Cardoso (BRA) 12.34, Pedro Henrique (BRA) 10.17, Teppei Tajima (JPN) 7.23
Heat 22: Shaun Joubert (ZAF) 15.17, C.J. Hobgood (USA) 14.50, Stephen Walsh (AUS) 8.40, Brent Dorrington (AUS) 7.43
Heat 23: Tiago Camarao (BRA) 12.03, Masatoshi Ohno (JPN) 11.67, Yujiro Tsuji (JPN) 9.03
Heat 24: Joan Duru (FRA) 14.83, Pat Gudauskas (USA) 11.77, Austin Ware (USA) 11.70, Norman Landa (EUK) 7.90
Billabong Girls Azores Islands Pro Final Result
Malia Manuel (HAW) 11.90 Def. Felicity Palmateer (AUS) 10.40
Billabong Girls Azores Islands Pro Semi-final Results
Heat 1: Felicity Palmateer (AUS) 11.50 Def. Rebecca Woods (AUS) 8.50
Heat 2: Malia Manuel (HAW) 12.50 Def. Lakey Peterson (USA) 7.07
Billabong Girls Azores Islands Pro Quarterfinal Results
Heat 1: Rebecca Woods (AUS) 12.37 Def. Justine Dupont (FRA) 9.84
Heat 2: Felicity Palmateer (AUS) 8.43 Def. Phillipa Anderson (AUS) 6.94
Heat 3: Malia Manuel (HAW) 11.40 Def. Paige Hareb (NZL) 11.33
Heat 4: Lakey Peterson (USA) 11.40 Def. Dimity Stoyle (AUS) 6.67
The 2012 ASP Women's World Tour Roster:
1 Carissa Moore (HAW)
2 Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS)
3 Stephanie Gilmore (AUS)
4 Tyler Wright (AUS)
5 Silvana Lima (BRA)
6 Coco Ho (HAW)
7 Sofia Mulanovich (PER)
8 Courtney Conlogue (USA)
9 Pauline Ado (FRA)
10 Laura Enever (AUS)
11 Malia Manuel (HAW)
12 Lakey Peterson (USA)
13 Sage Erickson (USA)
14 Rebecca Woods (AUS)
15 Paige Hareb (NZL)
16 Justine Dupont (FRA)
17 ASP Wildcard *To Be Determined