Competitors were put to the test in challenging conditions on Thursday for the Quiksilver Saquarema Prime at Itauna Beach in Rio de Janeiro. The second day of competition started off with heavy waves in the 6-8 foot range (2-3 meters) with larger sets throughout the day reaching 10+ feet plus. Although the initial heats were run in fair weather with light offshore winds, conditions became increasingly demanding with huge, foamy closeouts, broken boards, strong currents, nasty wipeouts and consistent onshore winds from the southwest.
Despite the conditions, the level of performance was extremely high as the athletes kept pumping out big scores during a lengthy day of competition. Gabriel Medina (BRA), picked up where he left off yesterday, pulling off the day’s highest scores of a 9.2 and a 9.83 for a 19.03 points (out of a possible 20) heat-wave total.
“I’m so happy I caught good waves again,” said Gabriel Medina. “Today (Thursday) it’s big and I used a bigger board. I hope it’s smaller tomorrow because it’s hard to compete in these types of conditions. There’s a really strong current and I had to keep paddling to stay where the lefts were breaking.”
Athletes were thankful for the jet-ski assistance to the outside today. In addition to safety concerns because of the increase in wave size, event organizers opted to extend the surfer’s scoring opportunities when yesterday, after catching the long lefthanders at Itauna Beach, most athletes elected to race back up the beach instead of fighting against the current. Stamina, endurance and conditioning have been vital in Saquarema.
Because of the extreme conditions, the day was filled with upsets, come from behind victories and last minute drama. Local surfer Raoni Monteiro (BRA) was only able to qualify in the dying seconds of his heat along with Perth Standlick (AUS).
“Yeah, the heat only ends when the horn sounds,” said Raoni Monteiro. “We were all waiting out the back and I paddled a little farther in knowing that I needed a low score. I paddled hard to catch that wave and rode it to the end. You just have to paddle into whatever comes and try not to fall. There’s a lot of waves and you just need to fight off the warbles and try to go big.”
Many of the surfers competing at the Quiksilver Saquarema Prime were surprised at the powerful waves breaking at Itauna Beach. For some, like Jeremy Flores (FRA), it was their first time to the “Maracana” of Brazilian surfing and found the waves similar to Hawaii, also known as the “Mecca of Surf”.
“It’s tough because there is a strong current, but there are waves, so I’m happy to surf in conditions like this with big waves,” said Jeremy Flores. “The hardest part for me was the paddling. Everything is difficult but we’re all catching a lot of waves and I’m impressed with the quality of the waves here. It’s my first time to Saquarema and it’s amazing, very similar to Hawaii. I like to surf with bigger boards and I’m happy that I made it into the next round.”
Matt Wilkinson (AUS) continued his quest to repeat his victory at the ASP 2013 Quiksilver Saquarema Prime by advancing into the No Losers Round of 24 along with Jadson Andre (BRA) by defeating Dusty Payne (HAW) and Jesse Mendes (BRA).
“Conditions are very difficult, the waves are really strong and there’s still the wind and current to deal with,” said Matt Wilkinson. “Besides beating your competitors, you’ve also got to beat the ocean, which makes everything harder. The waves are huge, but fun. It’s a different kind of wave that’s really powerful, so I’m stoked to qualify into the next round and it would be fantastic to win this event again.”