The third day of the Azores Pro commenced on Thursday morning in a wind affected lineup and 3-4ft waves. The last four heats of the second round were completed before going into the no-loser round of 24 which allowed the eight winning surfers to move directly into the Round of 16.
Filipe Toledo, current World No. 17 and aerial guru, was the first surfer to break the 8.00 barrier with an above-the-lip manoeuvre this morning. Taking things to the next level on his fronthand, Toledo netted one of the highest heat totals of the day.
"I went out there relaxed cause it's a no-loser round, but thinking of first place to get straight into the round 16," Toledo stated. "I watched the heats before and airs didn't score very well, so I tried to go higher and bring variation in the rotations and grabs. My 8+ was an inverted frontside reverse and in the first section of the wave, I think that's why I got a good score for it."
Ryan Callinan, 21, managed to hold back on his usual high-flying ardour, to perform more traditional surfing and advance into the round of 16 ahead of C.J Hobgood and Brian Toth.
"I've never got into a prime, so it's cool to be here and I'm doing pretty well I'm stoked !" Callinan said. "It's really cool to surf cause all the heats are so hard, there are CT guys in almost every heat and I feel like I've learned already a lot from the last couple. There's still some fun contestable waves out there, I did a little air at the end and only got a 4.6 so I was like ok I'll stick to the turns !"
Nathan Hedge, former elite WCT surfer now back in the qualification race, has been discretely advancing through the rounds at the ASP Prime SATA Airlines Azores Pro, but nonetheless winning all-three to advance directly into the round of 16. With his classic, yet very efficient surfing, the Australian edged out former runner-up at the World Juniors and rising Hawaiian star Ezekiel Lau.
"The conditions were challenging but I've got really good small-wave boards under my feet," Hedge said. "It's really important to do well in the Primes, we only have eight for the year and we're half-way through. I got super fit, worked on my equipment and made some lifestyle changes, I'm surfing better and faster than even when I was on tour before. I just had to be open minded to try new things, and work on my strengths !"
Alejo Muniz dominated the opening heat of the no-loser round of 24, in an all-Brazilian affair against powersurfer Willian Cardoso and Hizunome Bettero. Muniz started on an inside righthander to perform four radical turns including two perfectly executed snaps on his fronthand and scored an impressive 8.77 out of 10.
Unfortunately later in the heat, Muniz missed the landing on a full rotation aerial and suffered an ankle injury and won't be able to surf when the event continues tomorrow. "It looks like it's a compression between bones on his ankle and Alejo's gone to the hospital for an MRI so we'll hopefully know more soon," Phillipe Malvaux, Hurley European Team Manager said.