Round 1 of the Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro, Event No. 4 of 10 on the 2009 ASP World Tour, was completed today in solid four-to-six foot (2 metre) peaks at Praia Vila in Imbituba.
Utilizing the traditional competition format, the Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro saw all surfers don the singlet today, with ASP World Title contenders dominating the proceedings amidst some major upsets.
Mick Fanning (AUS), 28, former ASP World Champion (2007) and current ASP World No. 3, continued to terrorize the world's best surfers this morning, employing his lightning-fast forehand approach to navigate the thumping beach breaks. Although slow to start, the powerful natural-footer picked up momentum throughout the heat, netting the day's highest heat total of a 16.43 out of a possible 20, including a 9.50 for a blistering assault on a roping righthander.
"I couldn't find a rhythm towards the start and Aritz (Aranburu) came out with a 5, I came out with a 6, Aritz got a 7 and we went back and forth," Fanning said. "Towards the end, I was able to find a wave that stood up across the bank and it allowed me to really open up. I got one good turn off the top to start and just tried to stay on rail throughout the rest of the wave."
Despite being absent from last season's event with an injury, Fanning remains one of the most dangerous surfers in Brazil, with back-to-back wins in 2006 and 2007. Sitting within striking distance of an ASP World Tour ratings jump, the Australian is focused on capitalizing at the Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro.
"I've won the event the last two times I've been here so hopefully I can make it a three-peat," Fanning said. "It's still early days, but I'm feeling fit and focused and looking to put some results together over the course of these next events. I'm confident in my abilities in Brazil."
Joel Parkinson (AUS), 28, current ASP World No. 1 and Fanning's Gold Coast stable mate, reasserted his dominance amongst the world's best surfers today, posting an impressive 16.00 out of a possible 20 heat total en route to a Round 1 win over Kai Otton (AUS), 29, and wildcard Guilherme Ferreira (BRA)
"It's difficult out there and there's a lot of water moving but I just tried to stay focused on the task at hand," Parkinson said. "I studied it a lot before the heat and worked out where I wanted to be and just aimed for that. My boards are feeling really good and I felt like I was executing the way I wanted to out there."
Ever-reserved regarding predictions for the 2009 ASP World Title race, Parkinson carries himself with a quiet intensity this season, remaining concentrated his present situation.
"I don't get ahead of myself," Parkinson said. "I'm happy with the way I've performed out there today, but it was only Round 1. I am looking for a result here in Brazil and I am doing everything I can to achieve it. There are several surfers out there that look to be contenders here. I'm just focusing on my own program."
Tim Reyes (USA), 27, current No. 30 on the 2009 ASP World Tour ratings, caused the upset of the day, relegating reigning nine-time ASP World Champion Kelly Slater (USA), 37, to the elimination Round 2 following a closely-fought Round 1 bout.
"There are some pretty fun waves out there, but our heat was pretty slow," Reyes said. "I think Kelly (Slater) needed a 2-something at the end and I just went in. I was exhausted and wasn't going to chase him around for a 2. He easily could have got it, but he didn't. The clock wound down and I came away with the win."
Although Reyes has struggled thus far this season, the former ASP World No. 11 (2006) is hopeful for a return to form with a strong result in Brazil acting as the catalyst.
"I've had some pretty close heats this season and things just haven't gone my way," Reyes said. "I was pretty frustrated, especially in Tahiti, and I was almost ready to throw in the towel and sit down for the remainder of the year. After Tahiti, I went and got some waves to myself and cleared my head. My sponsor (of 10 years) O'Neill really stood behind me and I've come to Brazil looking for a result. I feel like my surfing is there and if I can start stringing together some results, I'm sure my confidence will return."
Kekoa Bacalso (HAW), 23, former ASP World Junior Champion and current ASP World No. 18, led the rookie charge today, taking down current ASP World No. 5 and heavily-favored local Adriano de Souza (BRA), 22, in challenging Round 1 conditions.
"I'm absolutely exhausted after that heat," Bacalso said. "There's so much water moving. I thought I was going to get smashed into the rocks. Still though, when you get on them, they can be pretty fun. I was really just trying to redeem myself after a 33rd in Tahiti, but Adriano (de Souza) is phenomenal and he definitely had all the support on the beach. We've surfed against each other at least a dozen times and I think that's the first time I beat him - stoked."
Other rookies to claim victories today alongside Bacalso were Tim Boal (FRA), 25, and Michel Bourez (PYF), 23, currently rated 25th and 35th respectively on the 2009 ASP World Tour ratings.
Chris Davidson (AUS), 32, current ASP World No. 28 and into his fifth stint as an ASP World Tour competitor, punctuated the afternoon action with the day's highest single-wave score, a 9.57 out of a possible 10, for a death-defying floater before linking into several power hooks on his forehand.
"I was really lucky that I was able to scratch into that one," Davidson said. "It bowled up and I faded off the bottom and jammed a pretty big floater before linking a couple of turns and finishing with a floater in the end. I was stoked on the score but knew I needed a back up as Jeremy (Flores) almost got me at the end. I've won down here before on the ASP WQS and the waves really suit me. I'm definitely aiming for a big result here."
Event organizers will reconvene tomorrow morning at 7am for a possible 8am Round 2 start.
Highlights from today's Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro are available via www.aspworldtour.com
For more information, log onto www.aspworldtour.com
HANG LOOSE SANTA CATARINA PRO ROUND 1 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Tim Boal (FRA) 12.66, Greg Emslie (ZAF) 8.07, Jordy Smith (ZAF) 6.10
Heat 2: Josh Kerr (AUS) 15.83, Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 14.83, Michael Picon (FRA) 13.10
Heat 3: Bobby Martinez (USA) 14.33, Jihad Khodr (BRA) 12.50, Phillip MacDonald (AUS) 5.53
Heat 4: Tim Reyes (USA) 10.17, Kelly Slater (USA) 9.70, Marlon Lipke (DEU) 8.07
Heat 5: Mick Fanning (AUS) 16.43, Aritz Aranburu (EUK) 12.53, Nathaniel Curran (USA) 7.20
Heat 6: Bede Durbidge (AUS) 14.00, Dean Morrison (AUS) 12.23, Ben Bourgeois (USA) 7.17
Heat 7: Kekoa Bacalso (HAW) 13.40, Neco Padaratz (BRA) 10.60, Adriano de Souza (BRA) 8.83
Heat 8: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 16.00, Kai Otton (AUS) 10.37, Guilherme Ferreira (BRA) 6.70
Heat 9: Taj Burrow (AUS) 14.47, Jay Thompson (AUS) 13.57, Gustavo Fernandes (BRA) 9.86
Heat 10: Dayyan Neve (AUS) 12.70, C.J. Hobgood (USA) 11.23, Bernardo Miranda (BRA) 8.00
Heat 11: Tom Whitaker (AUS) 13.86, Dane Reynolds (USA) 13.50, Nic Muscroft (AUS) 10.07
Heat 12: Michel Bourez (PYF) 13.50, Kieren Perrow (AUS) 13.37, Drew Courtney (AUS) 10.64
Heat 13: Taylor Knox (USA) 10.93, Roy Powers (HAW) 10.00, Heitor Alves (BRA) 9.70
Heat 14: Chris Ward (USA) 13.77, Ben Dunn (AUS) 13.20, Damien Hobgood (USA) 9.37
Heat 15: Chris Davidson (AUS) 15.17, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 14.00, Tiago Pires (PRT) 10.70
Heat 16: Mick Campbell (AUS) 14.40, David Weare (ZAF) 10.10, Dustin Barca (HAW) 9.70
HANG LOOSE SANTA CATARINA PRO ROUND 2 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 1: C.J. Hobgood (USA) vs. Guilherme Ferreira (BRA)
Heat 2: Adriano de Souza (BRA) vs. Gustavo Fernandes (BRA)
Heat 3: Kelly Slater (USA) vs. Bernardo Miranda (BRA)
Heat 4: Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) vs. Neco Padaratz (BRA)
Heat 5: Jordy Smith (ZAF) vs. Ben Bourgeois (USA)
Heat 6: Kieren Perrow (AUS) vs. Nathaniel Curran (USA)
Heat 7: Damien Hobgood (USA) vs. Marlon Lipke (DEU)
Heat 8: Jeremy Flores (FRA) vs. Phillip MacDonald (AUS)
Heat 9: Kai Otton (AUS) vs. Michael Picon (FRA)
Heat 10: Jay Thompson (AUS) vs. Greg Emslie (ZAF)
Heat 11: Dean Morrison (AUS) vs. Nic Muscroft (AUS)
Heat 12: Aritz Aranburu (EUK) vs. Roy Powers (HAW)
Heat 13: Jihad Khodr (BRA) vs. Ben Dunn (AUS)
Heat 14: Dane Reynolds (USA) vs. Tiago Pires (PRT)
Heat 15: Drew Courtney (AUS) vs. Dustin Barca (HAW)
Heat 16: Heitor Alves (BRA) vs. David Weare (ZAF)