Casey Grant: the General

Casey Grant was the star performer for Team South Africa as giant surf continued to pound the coast of Peru on Day 3 of the Billabong ISA World Surfing Games at Punta Hermosa yesterday.

Grant continued his march into the last 16 of the Qualifying stream as wild, overhead waves forced organisers to close down the contest venue at Senoritas and only run the men’s heats at Caballeros on the other side of the bay.

Selecting the best waves, Grant employed his full repertoire of powerful bottom turns, vertical off the top manoeuvres and even threw in the occasional aerial to post a heat total of 12.74, the third highest of the round. He relegated former Dream Tour campaigner Ben Bourgeois (USA) to the runner-up spot and banished Leandro Usuna (ARG) and former South American champion Gary Saavedra (PAN) to the Repecharge rounds.

Grant’s team mates Warwick Wright and Thursday’s standout Chad du Toit were not so fortunate and will restart their respective challenges for medals in Round 4 of the Repecharge stream when the contest resumes.

Both South Africans surfed well enough to record double-digit heat totals but placed third in their heats with Wright ending behind Mick Campbell (AUS) and Alejandro Moreda (PRC) while du Toit was outscored by Drew Courtney (AUS) and Matias Mulanovich (PER).

Men’s Repecharge Round 1, where Guillermo Satt (CHI) upstaged his opponents by scoring the highest total of the day, 16.27 out of 20, was the only other round completed so Team SA remains one of 16 nations with all their competitors still in the race for honours.

However, with team captain Greg Emslie having dropped into Round 2 of the Repecharges on Thursday, the South Africans now have a real battle on their hands for team honours at the event. Defending team champions USA, Australia and hosts Peru all have three men among the last 16 in the Qualifying stream while Brazil has two in the division that contributes the highest scores towards the team total.

Competitors in the Repecharges have to compete in nearly twice as many heats as those who remain in the Qualifying rounds and have the constant threat of being eliminated from the event if they finish anywhere but first or second in each heat.

Surfline, the official surf forecasters for the event, predict that the surf will drop to more manageable proportions for Saturday. The organisers hope to run men’s Repecharge Rounds 2 and 3 at Senoritas, where SA’s Greg Emslie will be in action. Caballeros will host be the venue for longboard Qualifying Round 2, where Matthew Moir and Brad Weare will represent SA, starting at 3pm SA time.

Kelly Slater: the number 10 is in your sleep

The sixth instalment of the ASP’s sole roving event license, the Rip Curl Pro Search, is gearing up for an historic couple of weeks as the world’s best surfers converge on the island paradise of Puerto Rico.

Stop No. 9 of 10 on the 2010 ASP World Tour, the Rip Curl Pro Search Portugal will enjoy a waiting period from October 30 through November 10, 2010, and potentially bear witness to one of the greatest sporting feats in history.

Kelly Slater (USA), 38, former nine-time ASP World Champion and current ASP World No. 1, is firmly in the driver’s seat in the race for the 2010 title heading into the Caribbean, with only young South African and current ASP World No. 2, Jordy Smith (ZAF), 22, remaining in the hunt.

“The pundits are correct (it’s absolutely mine to lose at this point),” Slater said. “I'm in as good a position as I could hope for coming out of Portugal with Jordy (Smith) finishing well there. I'm pretty comfortable, but I know Jordy has been consistent all year and could win another event. I just have to do my thing on the other side of the draw, and I'm still looking to win events if I'm in them. I'm excited for Puerto Rico. It used to be a second home. We'll see how familiar it feels.”

For Slater to clinch his historic 10th ASP Crown at the Rip Curl Pro Search Puerto Rico, the following scenarios must occur:

-If Slater finishes Equal 3rd or better, he clinches the 2010 ASP World Title.
-If Slater finishes Equal 5th or Equal 9th, Smith must win the event to send the ASP World Title Race to Hawaii.
-If Slater finishes Equal 13th or Equal 25th, Smith must finish Equal 3rd or better to send the ASP World Title Race to Hawaii.
-Essentially, if Smith fails to finish higher than Equal 5th, Slater claims the 2010 ASP World Title.

With his familiarity with the venue and enthusiasm the Rip Curl Pro Search event, the iconic Floridian is looking as dangerous as ever.

“I actually pitched the idea to Quiksilver six or eight years ago hoping they would do it to start the year,” Slater said. “I think it's a great idea and we should have more variety and worldwide mobile events.”

Tiago Pires: go for it, boy

The performance level stepped into top gear at the Quiksilver Pro Portugal an Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) sanctioned Men’s Star Series event with quarter-finalists decided in clean conditions at the main contest site of Ribeira D’Ilhas.

Long, lines in the 3ft (1m) range pushed down the point during the incoming tide to allow for an incredible display of modern progressive surfing during an intense morning session of competition. Favourites Tiago Pires (Ericeira, PRT) 30, Josh Kerr (Gold Coast, AUS) 26, and Jeremy Flores (Capbreton/New Caledonia, FRA) 22, along with standouts Gony Zubizarreta (Vigo, ESP) 25, Jonathan Gonzalez (Tenerife, CNY) 30, led the charge through to the quarter-finals of this $US145,000 event.

Tiago Pires in the final heat of the day laid down a serious challenge to the Quiksilver Pro Portugal 2010 title with a totally commanding performance in the tricky high-tide conditions. Once again it was his local knowledge of the main break that marked the difference over his opponent Hugo Savalli (REU).

“Local knowledge I think plays a big role definitely when the high tide is a little tricky. I knew I had to wait for the waves that had a wall and a bit more power in it. Hugo went on the first one and I knew that the second one was going to be better so I just went for it. With that score it became a tough heat for Hugo after that one because there weren’t many waves after.”

Pires is aware that his nearest rivals are also in hot form and also have a building knowledge of the break. Relaxed and composed, Pires who has won twice before a major Star Series event on home soil, is aware of what is yet to come.

“I am just taking it heat by heat at this stage. I know they surf great and when they come my way I have to think about them but until then I want to improve my surfing. Get a feel of my board and some confidence and wait for the match-ups.”

Josh Kerr blew away everyone with a mixture of powerful turns blended with varied aerial manoeuvres. Punching out a combined two-wave heat total of 18.23 out of 20, Kerr has firmed as favourite to make it back-to-back Star Series victories after his recent win in Canada. Conditions are expected to remain similar tomorrow allowing Kerr to pull his full repertoire of tricks out of the bag.

“I noticed the judges were scoring high the manoeuvres on the outside so my game plan was to do everything on the outside and not bother with the inside stuff. I stuck to the bigger ones and they seemed to have more power than the waves yesterday so stoked to be able to do a bottom turn.” (laughs)

Jonathan Gonzalez (CNY) 30, is one step closer to possibly his best ever career result in a major Star Series contest. Pitted today against experienced campaigner Eneko Acero (EUK), Gonzalez answered back from the initial challenge laid down by his opponent’s opening 8.67 ride. Waiting for the right wave and using his priority to perfection, Gonzalez sealed his win with some high-speed power gouges to nail a 9.23 out of 10.

“I was just trying to find a really good wave and it came right at the end with priority and it was bad luck for Eneko because he is a really great competitor but I am really stoked to get through.”

With the correct equipment under his feet and his confidence growing with each heat win, Gonzalez has no excuses if aiming to achieve his goals.

“I have been trying for a long time to find a magic board for small waves and this is the one that does that for me. It’s wide but not too thick and it feels good on the waves here. I hope I can win here because I have never won a 6-star rated event before so it could be a great result for me.”

Gony Zubizarreta (ESP) was another standout performer on the long right-hand point break. Off to a flying start with an 8.33, Zubizarreta got lucky not to have been punished with a priority error late in the heat.

“I got a good one at the beginning and I knew Charlie was surfing really well and then I fell on my second wave which put a bit of pressure on me. He was surfing on the inside and getting a few scores so I knew it was going to be tough to hold the lead. I made a mistake on priority at the end of the heat too. I was on the peak alone and I got a wave and fell so Charlie got back the priority. I should’ve kicked out but you learn from these mistakes.

Zubizarreta has shown this week he has the fire power to take down even the highest rated opponent. Facing Tiago Pires (PRT) in quarter-final nº4 and having faced him on previous occasions the scene is set for a great showdown.

“Tiago has been ripping and I have surfed against him a couple of times here so it is great to surf against him at his home and I am looking forward to it.”

Conditions are expected to hang in overnight allowing for a possible crowning of this year’s Quiksilver Pro Portugal champion tomorrow lunch time. Event officials will make a first-call at 09:30 for a possible start shortly after to quarter-final nº1 with Jeremy Flores (FRA) up against Hodei Collazo (EUK).

Surfers competing in the Quiksilver Pro Portugal are out to claim valuable ASP World Ranking points in their endeavour to qualify for next year’s elite ASP World Tour. European surfers are on stop nº 10 of 12 in their bid to claim this year’s ASP European Men’s Title currently lead by Marc Lacomare (FRA).

Quiksilver Pro Portugal Round Four Results
Heat 1: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 15.16 Def. Justin Mujica (PRT) 13.50
Heat 2: Hodei Collazo (EUK) 13.44 Def. Adrien Toyon (REU) 11.00
Heat 3: Jonathan Gonzalez (CNY) 17.06 Def. Eneko Acero (EUK) 13.50
Heat 4: Leonardo Neves (BRA) 11.60 Def. Pablo Paulino (BRA) 8.93
Heat 5: Josh Kerr (AUS) 18.23 Def. Mickey Picon (FRA) 15.27
Heat 6: Marc Lacomare (FRA) 13.10 Def. Frederico Morais (PRT) 10.40
Heat 7: Gony Zubizarreta (ESP) 15.40 Def. Charles Martin (GLP) 13.73
Heat 8: Tiago Pires (PRT) 16.30 Def. Hugo Savalli (REU) 9.50

Quiksilver Pro Portugal Remaining Round Three Results
Heat 6: Marc Lacomare (FRA) 15.67, Mickey Picon (FRA) 12.86, Klee Strachan (ZAF) 8.37
Heat 7: Gony Zubizarreta (ESP) 14.33, Hugo Savalli (REU) 11.50, Bruno Rodrigues (BRA) 3.77
Heat 8: Tiago Pires (PRT) 15.60, Charles Martin (GLP) 11.57, Jesse Mendes (BRA) 10.27