Buondi Billabong Pro Portugal Starts In Tricky Waves at Ericeira

Buondi Billabong Pro Portugal
ASP World Qualifying Series (WQS) 6-Star event
ASP WQS European Series Stop No. 8 of 13
Ericeira – Portugal
August 26-31, 2008

Maxime Huscenot (REU), current ASP European Junior No. 1, was one of the many good performers on Day 1 of competition. Photo courtesy Aquashot/ASPEurope.com

ERICEIRA, Portugal (Tuesday, August 26, 2008) – The Buondi Billabong Pro Portugal, an Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) World Qualifying Series (WQS) 6-Star event, started in tricky two foot (0.5 meter) waves at the world famous righthand pointbreak of Ribeira d'Ilhas in Ericeira today, and twenty-eight heats were wrapped up. From the 192 surfers entered in the event, 144 remain and Round 2 will resume tomorrow at 8 a.m.
The waves and weather forecast have been showing a promissing new swell and the ASP caravan is looking forward to the expected solid five foot (1.5 meter) waves and off-shore winds for tomorrow.

It was a day of world class surfing despite the difficult conditions and all small-wave specialists took the best out of the scoring potential on offer reaching the excellent range with several 17.00 point heat scores being posted througout the day. Brazilian wonderkid Wiggoly Dantas (BRA), 18, came out of the pack with the best result of Day 1 under his belt in Round 1, a promissing 17.97 point result (out of a possible 20).

“I have had such a good time since I got here and it happened again for that heat,” Dantas said. “I was in the final of the Billabong Pro Junior Sunday and to start off with a strong result is a great confidence boost.”

Dantas, who won the ASP WQS 5-Star in Newquay and placed third in the Billabong Pro Junior final last sunday, has impressed the WQS contingent thus far since he landed in Europe and seems to be in excellent shape at Ribeira d'Ilhas.

“That wave is so fun, long and if you get the good ones you can get points,” Dantas said. “It is a big event and the level will be hard so I will keep enjoying myself and not think of any result.”

Dantas will meet Australian young star Matt Wilkinson (AUS) and ASP World Junior No. 2 Tonino Benson (HAW) when he paddles out for Round 2.

Fellow Brazilian Marco Polo (BRA) was the second best scorer of the day with another impressive run and a 17.73 point reward (out of a possible 20) from the ASP judges after putting together great comitted tailslide re-entries and on-the-rail cutbacks surfing only two waves in twenty minutes.

The European contingent was not left behind on this first day of battle and most of the four-man heat winners managed to get over the 15.00 point range to avance confidently through to Round 2 and meet better seeded surfers in tomorrow's classic Ericeira.

Russell Winter (GBR), a former ASP World Tour surfer and top European competitor for over a decade now, was the fourth best athlete today getting a 17.34 point result in Heat 22 making his intentions clear.

“I was lucky because the first better sets were showing during my heat and I got the better waves,” Winter said. “I have had a long time out of the water because of my injury and it is very important to be able to get back to your best level, for confidence. I hope I can keep going tomorrow.”

Winter, who was the first European ever to join the ASP elite in the 90's, has been chasing a requalification for several years now and will be looking forward to surfing the expected  bigger waves that suit his surfing more.

Other European to shine today was "the German from Portugal" Nicolas Von Rupp (DEU) who advanced with a good 15.33 point score getting back in rhythm in his heat after several months away from contests.

Von Rupp, ASP European Junior No. 2 in 2007, missed the biggest under-21 events this year because of school obligations and now wills to catch up with the level and aims at getting through several rounds at the venue he has known for years now.

“I am stoked to get the right feeling back on my board and get back to competition,” Von Rupp said. “I have been travelling a lot and surfing barrels and hollow waves in Indonesia so I needed to get confidence back in different waves and I did well.”

Von Rupp, who has lived in Portugal since his childhood, is seen as a local by Portuguese crowds and will attract people's attention when he surfs Round 2 tomorrow.

Also advancing today was this year's biggest giant killer Bruno Santos (BRA), the Brazilian charger who won the Billabong Pro Tahiti in May being a wildcard. Santos, who has been competing among the WQS for several years, is renowned for his big-wave and barrel surfing but found his way out of today's soft conditions.

Favorites Patrick Beven (FRA), Alain Riou (PYF), Dion Atkinson (AUS) and Billabong Wildcard Marcos San Segundo (EUK) were some of those already securing their Round 3 ticket in the last heats of the day. Competitors will meet at 7.45 AM tomorrow morning.

The Buondi Billabong Pro Portugal is webcast LIVE at aspworldtour.com and aspeurope.com.