Challenging three-to-four foot (1.5 metre) waves pulsed through the main site at Praia Vila today as the Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro completed Round 3 of competition, narrowing the remaining field down to the final 16 surfers.
Stop No. 4 of 10 on the 2009 ASP World Tour, the Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro saw the ASP's top seeds take command during Round 3, with seven of the current ASP Top 10 advancing through to Round 4.
Adriano de Souza (BRA), 22, former ASP World Junior Champion (2004) and current ASP World No. 5, was in sensational form this morning, navigating the pulsing lefthanders with ease to net the highest heat total of the day, a 16.20 out of a possible 20.
"The surf is still pretty difficult but there are good lefts coming through and I was able to find two high-scoring ones," De Souza said. "Greg (Emslie) is such a dangerous competitor and is capable of getting really good scores. I knew I would have to surf at my highest level. My equipment feels good and I am feeling much more confident after getting through that last round."
With the advancement into Round 4 of the Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro, De Souza has already netted his best finish in six seasons of competing in Brazil (first as a wildcard, then as an ASP World Tour competitor). With today's eliminations of countrymen Heitor Alves (BRA), 27, and Neco Padaratz (BRA), the young natural-footer is the sole remaining Brazilian left in competition.
"I feel like a huge weight has been lifted and almost feel like I won the contest," De Souza said. "I was very nervous before that heat and felt like I had a big rock mentally preventing me from getting past that round. Now that I'm through, I feel like I can get a big result here. I am sad that Heitor (Alves) has been eliminated – he is such a good surfer and needed a result here. Hopefully I can keep going and get a big result for Brazil."
De Souza will face Jeremy Flores (FRA), 21, in Round 4 when competition resumes.
Kelly Slater (USA), 37, reigning nine-time ASP World Champion, continued to experiment with equipment in his Round 3 victory over Ben Dunn (AUS), 23, today. Having stretched the boundaries on competitive surfboards for the last several months, including his Round 2 victory on a self-shaped, asymmetrical quad-fin, the Floridian's equipment has been a central topic of much-heated debate within the surfing world.
"I seem to be riding a new board every time I go for a surf," Slater said. "This one I just rode was an epoxy swallow-tail and seemed to go really well in these conditions. I've spent the lay days hanging with some friends here in Brazil and having a few fun surfs around town. I've pretty much just been cruising and testing out some equipment."
After suffering three, uncharacteristic equal 17th place finishes thus far in 2009 (his worst competitive run since becoming an ASP World Tour competitor), Slater now finds himself with a current ASP World No. 25 rating and a mountain of challenges between him and an unprecedented 10th ASP World Title this season.
"I obviously haven't had the results I desired this season so a lot has to happen for me to even be in the running for the world title," Slater said. "But I guess that takes the pressure off for me at these events. I go into heats and I'm more looking to play the spoiler than net a result myself. I'm stoked to be getting through heats though. This is my best result of the year already and we'll see what happens tomorrow."
Slater will face current ASP World No. 8 Tom Whitaker (AUS), 29, in Round 4 when Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro competition resumes.
Bede Durbidge (AUS), 26, defending Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro winner and current ASP World No. 14, survived a hotly contested Round 3 bout with ASP Dream Tour rookie Michel Bourez (PYF), 23.
"Conditions were pretty tough out there and Michel (Bourez) started out pretty strong before I was able to put some scores up," Durbidge said. "He got me last year in France so it was good to get another one back on him. He's such a strong competitor and really dangerous is most conditions. I feel like I'm surfing well though and hopefully I can put together a solid result here in Brazil and get a bit of momentum going in my season."
C.J. Hobgood (USA), 29, former ASP World Champion (2001) and current ASP World No. 4, punctuated the afternoon's competition with the highest single-wave score of the day, a 9.17 out of a possible 10, for a series of fully-committed forehand power gaffs on a roping lefthander.
Michael (Picon) always does well here and I wanted to make sure I got the first wave on him," Hobgood said. "The last time we surfed against one another was in Indonesia and he got the first wave on me and that won the heat for him. So getting the first wave was my strategy heading into the heat and it paid off. The wave really stood up and allowed me to get a bunch of turns in. There are still good waves out there and this is probably the most contestable I've ever seen Praia Vila. Hopefully the waves stay good tomorrow."
When Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro competition recommences, first up will be defending Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro winner Bede Durbidge (AUS), 26, up against another past winner in Brazil (2005) Damien Hobgood (USA), 29, in Heat 1 of Round 4.
Event organizers will reconvene tomorrow morning at 7am for a possible 7:30am start to the (potentially) final day of the Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro.
Highlights from today's Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro will be available via www.aspworldtour.com
For more information, log onto www.aspworldtour.com
HANG LOOSE SANTA CATARINA PRO ROUND 3 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Bede Durbidge (AUS) 12.83 def. Michel Bourez (PYF) 11.83
Heat 2: Damien Hobgood (USA) 12.00 def. Heitor Alves (BRA) 4.50
Heat 3: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 13.67 def. Tim Boal (FRA) 12.53
Heat 4: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 16.20 def. Greg Emslie (ZAF) 13.87
Heat 5: Bobby Martinez (USA) 11.00 def. Tiago Pires (PRT) 7.10
Heat 6: Dustin Barca (HAW) 13.07 def. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 10.33
Heat 7: Kekoa Bacalso (HAW) 13.40 def. Dean Morrison (AUS) 10.74
Heat 8: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 15.17 def. Neco Padaratz (BRA) 14.67
Heat 9: Taj Burrow (AUS) 14.24 def. Nathaniel Curran (USA) 12.16
Heat 10: Tim Reyes (USA) 14.50 def. Dayyan Neve (AUS) 12.07
Heat 11: Kelly Slater (USA) 15.53 def. Ben Dunn (AUS) 10.46
Heat 12: Tom Whitaker (AUS) 11.50 def. Chris Davidson (AUS) 7.00
Heat 13: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 16.17 def. Michael Picon (FRA) 9.24
Heat 14: Mick Campbell (AUS) 14.90 def. Josh Kerr (AUS) 11.10
Heat 15: Mick Fanning (AUS) 11.00 def. Roy Powers (HAW) 3.87
Heat 16: Chris Ward (USA) 13.50 def. Taylor Knox (USA) 10.86
HANG LOOSE SANTA CATARINA PRO ROUND 4 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 1: Bede Durbidge (AUS) vs. Damien Hobgood (USA)
Heat 2: Jeremy Flores (FRA) vs. Adriano de Souza (BRA)
Heat 3: Bobby Martinez (USA) vs. Dustin Barca (HAW)
Heat 4: Kekoa Bacalso (HAW) vs. Joel Parkinson (AUS)
Heat 5: Taj Burrow (AUS) vs. Tim Reyes (USA)
Heat 6: Kelly Slater (USA) vs. Tom Whitaker (AUS)
Heat 7: C.J. Hobgood (USA) vs. Mick Campbell (AUS)
Heat 8: Mick Fanning (AUS) vs. Chris Ward (USA