Pictured: Jordy Smith (ZAF), 21, former ASP World Junior Champion (2006) and current ASP World No. 6, exploded in his Round 2 match against Ben Bourgeois (USA), 30, this morning. Credit: © ASP/ CI/ CESTARI via GETTY IMAGES
IMBITUBA, Santa Catarina (Sunday, June 28, 2009) - The elimination Round 2 of the Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro was completed today, with the world's best surfers tearing into the four-to-six foot (2 metre) waves on offer at Praia Vila.
Event No. 4 of 10 on the 2009 ASP World Tour, the Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro enjoyed sunnier weather and marginally better manageable ocean conditions for Round 2, allowing for some electrifying performances.
Jordy Smith (ZAF), 21, former ASP World Junior Champion (2006) and current ASP World No. 6, was devastating this morning during his Round 2 bout against Ben Bourgeois (USA), 30. Building momentum throughout the heat, Smith exploded with the day's highest single-wave score of a 9.00 out of a possible 10 for a barrage of fully committed power turns on his forehand.
"It's still pretty tough out there and it's difficult to find a spot to line up," Smith said. "There are some pretty good waves coming through the bowl though and if you can get on them, you can open up a bit. I just got lucky with my wave selection and was able to put up a couple of scores."
Long-touted as one of the most progressive surfers on the planet, Smith struggled during his rookie season on the ASP Dream Tour, finishing 26th in 2008. Since then, the South African has re-ignited through the opening events this year, collecting two ninths and a third en route to his current ASP World No. 6 rating.
"I think I put a lot of pressure on myself last season and I'm trying not to do that this year," Smith said. "I'm just having fun and that seems to be working out pretty well. I've had a couple of pretty good events and I'm only looking to improve."
Smith will face 2009 ASP Dream Tour rookie Dustin Barca (HAW), 27, in Round 3 of the Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro when competition resumes.
Kelly Slater (USA), 37, reigning nine-time ASP World Champion, has struggled in 2009, collecting three consecutive 17th place finishes resulting in his current ASP World No. 25 rating. Despite a Round 1 loss yesterday, Slater rallied in Round 2 of the Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro, dominating the righthanders to edge past wildcard Bernardo Miranda (BRA).
"I've been feeling a bit burned out on competition and I wasn't planning on coming to Brazil or Jeffreys Bay," Slater said. "I was planning on spending a bit of time with my family, but I spoke with Renato (Hickel) and he told me that all the fans in Brazil were looking forward to it, so I decided to come and make the journey down here."
Running into setbacks with delayed flights, visa issues and missing baggage, Slater arrived only hours before yesterday's Round 1 heat, eventually going down to compatriot Tim Reyes (USA), 27, on borrowed equipment. With his surfboards arriving late last night, Slater looked well in-form this morning, even executing an impressive aerial 360 on his forehand.
"Well, it took me about three days to get to Brazil and my boards didn't event show up until 11pm last night," Slater said. "I've definitely been tinkering with my equipment this season, and the board I'm on is actually one I shaped - it's an asymmetrical, swallow-tail quad-fin. It worked pretty well out there, but the conditions are tough. There's not really a defined bank out there, so really anyone can win."
Despite a slow start in 2009 and the absence of his renowned competitive drive, Slater acknowledges the possibility of a turning point here at the Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro given his history in Brazil (rallying against Andy Irons in 2003, winning the ASP World Title in 2007).
"I think it was pretty obvious yesterday who was surfing well," Slater said. "Joel (Parkinson) and Mick (Fanning) got some really good waves, but really anybody can win out here. I've had some good moments here in the past and hopefully I can spark something here and get on a bit of a roll. I'm happy to get through a heat and we'll see what happens in Round 3."
Slater will battle Ben Dunn (AUS), 23, in Round 3 when Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro competition recommences.
Nathaniel Curran (USA), 24, winner of the ASP World Qualifying Series (WQS) in 2008, posted his first career victory at the ASP World Tour level today, besting veteran Kieren Perrow (AUS), 32, 13.50 to 8.67 in their Round 2 heat.
"It's been a difficult transition for me from the WQS to the World Tour," Curran said. "I've been playing around with boards, finding out what works best for me. The level of surfing on tour is also a major step above, but I think that the 'QS prepared me really well for it. Sometimes you just get tough heats. I'm stoked to get through the heat and hopefully I can build a bit of momentum for a result here."
Also scoring his first win of 2009 was Michael Picon (FRA), 30, who eliminated Kai Otton (AUS), 29, 14.07 to 8.34.
Adriano de Souza (BRA), 22, current ASP World No. 5, scored a solid victory over wildcard Gustavo Fernandes (BRA), to advance through to Round 3. With the elimination of the three wildcards as well as ASP World No. 20 Jihad Khodr (BRA), 26, De Souza now leads fellow ASP Dream Tour campaigner Heitor Alves (BRA), 27, and replacement surfer Neco Padaratz (BRA) as the remaining Brazilians in the event.
"For sure you can feel the support of everyone on the beach when you're in the water," De Souza said. "It feels great to be competing on this level in Brazil, but I'm trying not to put too much pressure on myself. I'm through to the third round, which is as good as I've ever done in this event after six years of competing here. I'm feeling confident though, and I hope I can add another good result at home."
De Souza faces Greg Emslie (ZAF), 32, when Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro competition resumes.
Event organizers will reconvene tomorrow morning at 7:30am to assess conditions for a possible Round 3 8am start.
When Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro competition recommences, first up will be defending event champ Bede Durbidge (AUS), 26, up against ASP Dream Tour rookie Michel Bourez (PYF), 23.
Highlights from today's Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro will be available via www.aspworldtour.com
For more information, log onto www.aspworldtour.com
Heat 1: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 13.00 def. Guilherme Ferreira (BRA) 9.17
Heat 2: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 11.84 def. Gustavo Fernandes (BRA) 8.70
Heat 3: Kelly Slater (USA) 13.04 def. Bernardo Miranda (BRA) 11.16
Heat 4: Neco Padaratz (BRA) 13.40 def. Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 11.90
Heat 5: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 16.07 def. Ben Bourgeois (USA) 9.17
Heat 6: Nathaniel Curran (USA) 13.50 def. Kieren Perrow (AUS) 8.67
Heat 7: Damien Hobgood (USA) 15.00 def. Marlon Lipke (DEU) 10.40
Heat 8: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 11.60 def. Phillip MacDonald (AUS) 11.16
Heat 9: Michael Picon (FRA) 14.07 def. Kai Otton (AUS) 8.34
Heat 10: Greg Emslie (ZAF) 13.60 def. Jay Thompson (AUS) 11.17
Heat 11: Dean Morrison (AUS) 11.57 def. Nic Muscroft (AUS) 8.93
Heat 12: Roy Powers (HAW) 12.43 def. Aritz Aranburu (EUK) 12.20
Heat 13: Ben Dunn (AUS) 9.67 def. Jihad Khodr (BRA) 9.60
Heat 14: Tiago Pires (PRT) 13.00 def. Dane Reynolds (USA) 10.93
Heat 15: Dustin Barca (HAW) 13.07 def. Drew Courtney (AUS)12.77
Heat 16: Heitor Alves (BRA) 10.57 def. David Weare (ZAF) 5.84
Heat 1: Bede Durbidge (AUS) vs. Michel Bourez (PYF)
Heat 2: Damien Hobgood (USA) vs. Heitor Alves (BRA)
Heat 3: Jeremy Flores (FRA) vs. Tim Boal (FRA)
Heat 4: Adriano de Souza (BRA) vs. Greg Emslie (ZAF)
Heat 5: Bobby Martinez (USA) vs. Tiago Pires (PRT)
Heat 6: Jordy Smith (ZAF) vs. Dustin Barca (HAW)
Heat 7: Kekoa Bacalso (HAW) vs. Dean Morrison (AUS)
Heat 8: Joel Parkinson (AUS) vs. Neco Padaratz (BRA)
Heat 9: Taj Burrow (AUS) vs. Nathaniel Curran (USA)
Heat 10: Dayyan Neve (AUS) vs. Tim Reyes (USA)
Heat 11: Kelly Slater (USA) vs. Ben Dunn (AUS)
Heat 12: Tom Whitaker (AUS) vs. Chris Davidson (AUS)
Heat 13: C.J. Hobgood (USA) vs. Michael Picon (FRA)
Heat 14: Mick Campbell (AUS) vs. Josh Kerr (AUS)
Heat 15: Mick Fanning (AUS) vs. Roy Powers (HAW)
Heat 16: Taylor Knox (USA) vs. Chris Ward (USA)