GUINCHO, Portugal (Friday, October 24, 2008) - The ASP World Qualifying Series (WQS) 6-Star Estoril Coast Pro endured strong on-shore winds today at its back-up venue of Guincho and twenty heats were ran in three foot (one meter) tricky waves giving all competitors a hard time to battle for a berth in Round 4, the 3-Man heat round. Two days remain before the final event of the ASP WQS European Series come to an end and title contenders Michel Bourez (PYF) and Glenn Hall were eliminated leaving the opportunity to Marlon Lipke (DEU) to steal the regional crown from current leader Tim Boal (FRA) if he wins the event.
Big scores and upsets were witnessed all day in the wind-blown surf on offer and 18-year-old Hawaiian phenomenon Tonino Benson (HAW) was the only one to break the event's top heat result after he posted an excellent 18.00 point tally (out of a possible 20) including a near perfect 9.83 point ride in Heat 6 of Round 3. Benson, who had to defeat former ASP World Champion Sunny Garcia (HAW) and Damien Fahrenfort (ZAF) to advance, is through to Round 4 for the second consecutive event.
"It was very windy and hard to surf but I just found the waves with more wall and surfed them well," Benson said. "I had some excellent surfers in my heat so I tried to do whatever I could. I really think that the combination of progressive and more classic surfing is the key and I am trying to do both."
Benson, who had up-and-down results in Europe this year, is finishing his first year ever among the ASP World Qualifying Series (WQS) and has a chance to finish in the Top 100, looking forward to end up the year as good as he started it, with a second place at the ASP World Junior Championships. He will attend the two last events of the year in Hawaii.
"I am really happy with the year since I got second in the ASP World Junior Championships (WJC)," Benson said. "I had a couple of bad results in France but did well in Portugal last August and it seems like Portugal is being good to me again this time. I used to be a bit nervous at the beginning of the year coming to WQS events but I am feeling good now and I have nothing to lose."
Benson's performance came after several big upsets including the elimination of current ASP WQS No. 16 Yadin Nicol (AUS) who was not able to best Gavin Gillette (HAW) and ASP Top 45 member Travis Logie. Nicol, who posted the highest heat score on Day 3 of competition will wait for the Hawaiian showdown to try and secure a berth for next year's ASP World Tour.
Marlon Likpe (DEU), 23, currently No. 12 on the ASP WQS ratings and still in contention for his maiden regional crown, managed to get through Round 3 with a solid win over ratings' No. 8 Greg Emslie (ZAF) and ASP World Tour surfer Rodrigo Dornelles (BRA). Lipke, the defending champion of the Estoril Coast Pro who found two good scores to secure his berth in the 3-Man heat round, knows a big result here would guarantee him a spot among next year's ASP Top 45.
"The waves were pretty hard but I still felt comfortable out there," Lipke said. "I knew the others had not caught any good wave so I was patient and felt things were going my way. I am pretty stoked to get through that heat and I hope we will get better conditions for the weekend."
Lipke, who has had a stellar year so far, is sitting on a 10950 point total and will look to better a 1125 point result knowing a second consecutive victory in the Estoril Coast Pro would rocket him to No. 1 on the regional ratings as well.
"I feel good usually when I am surfing in events in Portugal and I can adapt my surfing to small conditions," Lipke said. "I like beachbreaks where there is a bit of luck involved and it went well today again."
Former ASP World Tour contender and current ASP WQS No. 9 Gabe Kling (USA) as well as fellow Californian and ratings' leader Nathaniel Curran (USA) were in good form getting through a couple of battles today. Kling, who jumped back into contention for next year's Dream Tour last week thanks to an equal 5th in Lanzarote's ASP WQS 6-Star Prime event, will face outsider Blake Thornton (AUS).
"It was a lot better than I expected and I got a couple of waves with longer sections to get a few turns," Kling said. "Looking at it from the beach, it seemed really bad and I paddled out ready to surf any wave and I got the better ones."
Kling is going for a third consecutive big result after a 5th in Brazil and Lanzarote and will try and secure a last excellent run this weekend keeping in mind he is well in position for a Top 15 finish.
"The last two events have been amazing for me," Kling said. "It is funny to still be able to qualify with very few events remaining but it seems like it is good for me and I hope I can finish this tough year the best way possible."
The Estoril Coast Pro is webcast LIVE at www.aspeurope.com and will resume at 8.30 AM tomorrow Saturday, October 25, with Round 4 and 5 scheduled.
UPCOMING ROUND 4 HEATS (1st, 2nd to Round 5)
Heat 1: Adam Melling (AUS), Tiago Pires (PRT), Kekoa Bacalso (HAW)
Heat 2: Hugo Savalli (REU), Mike Losness (USA), Eric Rebiere (FRA)
Heat 3: Christophe Allary (REU), Gavin Gillette (HAW), Owen Wright (AUS)
Heat 4: Jean Da Silva (BRA), Travis Logie (ZAF), Tonino Benson (HAW)
Heat 5: Dion Atkinson (AUS), Marlon Lipke (DEU), Nathaniel Curran (USA)
Heat 6: Eneko Acero (EUK), Greg Emslie (ZAF), Shaun Gossmann (AUS)
Heat 7: Blake Thornton (AUS), Gabe Kling (USA), Jay Thompson (AUS)
Heat 8: Shaun Cansdell (AUS), Tanner Gudauskas (USA), Leigh Sedley (AUS)
ROUND 3 RESULTS (1st, 2nd to Round 4)
Heat 1: Adam Melling (AUS) 13.93 pts, Hugo Savalli (REU) 13.33 pts, Bobby Hansen (NZL) 12.60 pts, Nic Muscroft (AUS) 12.50 pts
Heat 2: Tiago Pires (PRT) 12.84 pts, Mike Losness (USA) 12.80 pts, Rowan Aish (NZL) 12.50 pts, Phil MacDonald (AUS) 11.00 pts
Heat 3: Eric Rebiere (FRA) 12.83 pts, Kekoa Bacalso (HAW) 11.83 pts, Jonathan Gonzalez (CNY) 6.83 pts, Stuart Kennedy (AUS) 4.76 pts
Heat 4: Christophe Allary (REU) 12.16 pts, Jean Da Silva (BRA) 9.76 pts, Nicolas Von Rupp (DEU) 8.17 pts, Vincent Duvignac (FRA) 5.60 pts
Heat 5: Gavin Gillette (HAW) 12.33 pts, Travis Logie (ZAF) 11.84 pts, Yadin Nicol (AUS) 10.34 pts, Brandon Jackson (ZAF) 8.73 pts
Heat 6: Tonino Benson (HAW) 18.00 pts, Owen Wright (AUS) 13.90 pts, Damien Fahrenfort (ZAF) 12.00 pts, Sunny Garcia (HAW) 8.50 pts
Heat 7: Dion Atkinson (AUS) 14.23 pts, Eneko Acero (EUK) 13.73 pts, Romain Cloitre (REU) 11.30 pts, Justin Mujica (PRT) 10.73 pts
Heat 8: Marlon Lipke (DEU) 13.87 pts, Greg Emslie (ZAF) 12.43 pts, Shaun Burrell (USA) 7.86 pts, Rodrigo Dornelles (BRA) 6.84 pts
Heat 9: Shaun Gossmann (AUS) 14.67 pts, Nathaniel Curran (USA) 14.07 pts, Drew Courtney (AUS) 13.54 pts, Jose-Maria Cabrera (CNY) 8.67 pts
Heat 10: Blake Thornton (AUS) 15.17 pts, Shaun Cansdell (AUS) 11.34 pts, Glenn Hall (IRE) 9.93 pts, Clint Kimmins (AUS) 7.24 pts
Heat 11: Gabe Kling (USA) 16.27 pts, Tanner Gudauskas (USA) 12.90 pts, Romain Laulhe (FRA) 12.13 pts, Travis Mellem (USA) 7.63 pts
Heat 12: Leigh Sedley (AUS) 16.33 pts, Jay Thompson (AUS) 14.40 pts, Marcos San Segundo (EUK) 9.23 pts, Clancy Dawson (AUS) 7.43 pts