CARCAVELOS/GUINCHO, Portugal (Sunday, October 26, 2008) - Jean Da Silva (BRA), 23, won the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) World Qualifying Series (WQS) 6-Star Estoril Coast Pro at the back-up venue of Guincho today, in testing six to eight foot (2 to 2.5 meter) waves. Da Silva, who defeated American Gabe Kling (USA) in the last battle of the ASP WQS European Series, clinched 2500 valuable ratings' points and confirmed he was back in form after a tough year.
Da Silva, who ended up winning the event with a low 9.83 point score (out of a possible 20), found the best wave of the final which happened to be enough while Kling was struggling against the strong currents and enduring some hard time with some nine foot sets breaking at Guincho.
"I caught that wave right at the beginning before I even had the time to sit out there," Da Silva said. "It was really hard and we could not hear the scores. It was probably one of the trickiest heats of my career but to take the win here is somethiing really special. I am so stoked right now."
Da Silva, who has had a tough year with no significant result, suffered a serious hip injury and had to stay away from the water for four months, a moment he remembered after the final which made his victory today even more special.
"I got injured and it affected me so much that I almost quit surfing this year," Da Silva said. "It was the worse time of my life but the support from my family got me back to work slowly and I just restarted from scratch in July. I trained hard to come back to this level and this win means a lot. I was focused 150% on winning all week and I made it. It is just perfect."
Da Silva, who was the only one of the four last competitors in the event not to have any pressure points' wise, left Kling with a runner-up finish, an excellent result for the American who is guaranteed to surf among the ASP Top 45 next year.
Gabe Kling (Ca, USA), 28, a former elite surfer who got back in the race for the ASP World Tour qualification in the last three events, did not find any good enough waves during the final finishing with a poor 9.67 point total (out of a possible 20), missing his first win in a couple of years.
"I am stoked with the result but it is very disappointing not to be able to surf," Kling said. "The conditions were testing and I surfed four times today which made it hard for me but I just couldn't sit at the right place and I missed a couple of better waves."
Kling, who opened 2008 with a final in Brazil, suffered a pneumonia and knee injury and was left away from the Top 15 until the beginning of October where he started performing well in Brazil then in Lanzarote, finishing today in Portugal to secure his 2009 Dream Tour berth.
"It has been a strange year and I almost feel like it was two years in one," Kling said. "To have that many big events until the end just made my year and I am lucky I had the opportunity to come back that fast with three events in a row. I am stoked to be back on tour next year."
The first man to fail in the Semifinals was local hero and ASP World Tour No. 31 Tiago Pires (Ericeira, PRT). Pires, 28, who displayed smart and solid surfing throughout the week, was stopped by Da Silva in Semifinal No. 1 after a tough battle where he broke a second board in a week that made him lose confidence in the last minutes of the heat.
"I really wanted to win in front of the Portuguese crowd but I am still happy with that 3rd," Pires said. "It was very hard out there and I did not really know what was going on. I could not hear the scores well and Jean (Da Silva) was surfing fifty meters from me so I did my thing until I broke my board. It was a bigger one for these conditions and breaking it was a shoker and made me feel weaker."
Pires, who will fly out tomorrow morning to Brazil to surf in the second to last event of this year's ASP World Tour, secured precious points for his WQS re-qualification campaign and leaves Portugal with 11750 points, a total that should be enough to see the best Portuguese surfer ever surf among the elite ASP Top 45 next year.
"My goal was to do well at all the WQS I could surf in and I think I have achieved my goal," Pires said. "It has been a lot of work to make it back and surf both tours this year and I hope I don't have to surf in the last events in Hawaii and have time to rest before the Pipeline Masters in December."
Pires goes No. 6 on the ASP World Qualifying Series (WQS) ratings, one spot behind 2008 ASP European Champion Tim Boal (FRA) who is already guaranteed to join Flores and Pires on next year's Dream Tour.
Dion Atkinson (South Australia, AUS), who ended his European year with an equal 3rd today after losing to Kling at the back-up venue of Guincho in the solid surf, was not able to best the inform American and finished Semifinal No. 1 with a 14.50 point tally (out of a possible 20), not enough to secure a ticket for the final.
"These solid conditions usually fit my surfing but I was a bit mixed up with the change of location and the totally different waves," Atkinson said. "I think I surfed a pretty good heat but Gabe (Kling) got an amazing wave. I did what I paddled out to do and I thought that two 7-point scores would be enough after watching the previous semifinal but Gabe just got the better wave in the end."
Atkinson, who placed 2nd in the ASP WQS 6-Star Sooruz Lacanau Pro last August, was definitely willing to grab another opportunity but failed to make the final. Atkinson still clinched valuable 1875 ratings' points that throws him back into the Top 25.
"I was getting down on myself after the Canary Islands and was questioning my surfing," Atkinson said. "I got a bit of deep thoughts and almost calling the year off but that 3rd place gets me back on track even if still far from the qualification. I know Hawaii can suit me as I am big guy and can do well in bigger waves so I will see there. I am coming back from a knee injury that made it hard last year and looking back on 2008, there's definitely a good progression."
Highlights from the Estoril Coast Pro are available via www.aspeurope.com
ESTORIL COAST PRO RESULTS - ASP WQS 6-STAR MEN
1 - Jean Da Silva (BRA) 9.83
2 - Gabe Kling (USA) 9.67
SEMIFINALS (1st to Final)
SF 1: Jean Da Silva (BRA) 13.50 def. Tiago Pires (PRT) 12.16
SF 2: Gabe Kling (USA) 15.66 def. Dion Atkinson (AUS) 14.50
QUARTERFINALS (1st to Semifinals)
QF 1: Tiago Pires (PRT) 13.84 def. Mike Losness (USA) 10.67
QF 2: Jean Da Silva (BRA) 14.10 def. Gavin Gillette (HAW) 12.23
QF 3: Dion Atkinson (AUS) 14.83 def. Marlon Lipke (DEU) 9.90
QF 4: Gabe Kling (USA) 17.00 def. Jay Thompson (AUS) 8.17