Small Waves and Big Scores on Day 3 of the O'Neill Deep Blue Open
After lengthy deliberation the 5th O'Neill Deep Blue Open once again hit the break of Lohis for day 3 of competition.
Event officials were considering utilizing the advantage of the events ample waiting period to place the event on hold until more favorable conditions arrived. However, as mid morning passed it was 'game on' and the contest sped through to heat 8 of the round of 96 in the testing and inconsistent conditions.
Under the new ASP event format, today's round of 96 featured the last of the seeded surfers. This new dimension to 6-star, Prime WQS events serves to decrease the advantage the higher seeds have held in the past. As a result the world's elite surfers, from the World Championship Tour and the top end of the WQS tour, entered the fray today and were forced to work hard for their spots in the latter rounds. Spearheading the big guns arrival was Tim Reyes (US) and Cory Lopez (US) surfing in the first heat of the day.
WCT rookie Tim Reyes (US), un-fazed by the challenging conditions, managed to squeeze an 8.83 ride from the crumbly conditions. Reyes later added a 7-pointer to his tally to take the heat ahead of fellow countryman Cory Lopez (US). Both will be back in action in the round of 64.
"Yeah it was a little bit like home out there today" Began Reyes. "I was lucky I went to my shapers room before I came out here and grabbed shorter board and with these conditions it was lucky I did. When the standard of competition is this high it's really down to whoever's in position to get the best waves, I guess I was lucky today. To get through the first round is a great relief; it's a long way to come to loose." He added.
Meeting Tim Reyes in the next round is Frenchman Mikey Picon. Miky is no stranger to the Maldives having competed in every edition of the event to date, however, an intimate knowledge of the break bore no weight today with shifting peaks and frustrating lulls disrupting the flow. Despite this, Picon managed to find the higher scoring waves to defeat Brazilian Marcelo Nunes and ensure his place in the round of 48.
"The first heat of the contest is always the most difficult one so it's a relief to have made it through." Began Picon. "The nerves can really get to you when you're waiting around for a couple of days and it's difficult not to let the pressure get to you. I was in second behind Marcelo (Nunes) for most of that heat and then that last wave just opened up for me and I slipped into first. I've surfed Lohis quite a bit over the past 5 years and even though the conditions aren't great it's still fun out there. Last year it was pretty classic, we got some great waves so I guess our luck may have run out but that's the way it goes sometimes." He added.
Despite the increasing wind, the performance levels continued to soar in heat 4. Semi-retired tour veteran Heath Wlaker (AUS) was firmly back in the driving seat after recovering from a serious injury he sustained at Pipeline (HAW) last season. Heath not only banked the highest scoring combination of the day, with a 17.5, but also managed to paddle into the only overhead sets of the morning. Heath will now meet Cory Lopez, Daniel Redman and Marcelo Nunes in the next round.
"It's kind of scrappy out there but they were good waves that I managed to pull into and I was rewarded for it so I'm stoked" Began Heath. "I was lucky to find that overhead set towards the end. There aren't many waves like that out there so I just gave it all I got and it paid off. I'm actually a team manager now because I recently retired from the tour after 10 years so to come here and mix it up with the best surfers in the world again is a good feeling. I don't want to steal the limelight from my team but I'm stoked to get through to the next round." He added.
Reigning European champion Justin Mujica (PRT) disposed of some stiff competition in the final heat of the day, including 3-times world champion Tom Curren, to ensure his place in the next round. In a tense, wave-starved heat, Mujica laid everything on the line, milking every drop of water out of the waves the Indian Ocean sent him. Justin eventually took the top spot with Shaun Cansdell slipping into second. Justin will now meet Joel Centeio (HAW) and Ryan Campbell (AUS) in the round of 48, while Cansdell is matched against Pancho Sullivan (HAW) and Dayyan Neve (AUS) "It's really hard out there." Began Mujica. There aren't too many waves today and the ones that are coming through are really small so you have to make the most of the ones you find. I fell on my first 2 waves but managed to keep my head together. Finally, I found a couple of waves that connected at the end so I was really lucky to get through. I was really anxious before I paddled out, so to get through is a big weight off my shoulders to get through." he added.
The recommencement of the round of 96 is now on the cards for tomorrow. Fingers crossed the Indian Ocean will serve the O'Neill Deep Blue Open with a generous helping of quality waves that the region is famed for. Pray for waves.