Day two of the Australian Open of Surfing at Manly saw a day jam-packed with upsets, big scores and small but playful waves as the competitors in the first round of the men fought to seal themselves a spot into the third day of competition.
The wild aerial antics of Yago Dora (Brazil) continued to carry him through heats with the goofy-footer performing an exciting array of manoeuvres. With a minute remaining in the heat, there was only a single point separating first and fourth position, however Dora was able to extend his lead, posting an excellent scoring 8.40 (out of a possible ten points) for a successful backside air-reverse.
“I lost my heat in Newcastle last week, because I was too busy and I kept catching small waves, so in this event I thought, I will just stay patient and wait for waves worth catching,” said Dora. “With that declining swell, it’s important to get the bigger waves, but sometimes they just don’t come. I’m glad they came my way in this occasion.”
Flavio Nakagima (Brazil) showed steely determination in his opening exchange with former World Championship Tour (CT) surfer Brett Simpson. In the relatively low-scoring affair, Nakagima was able to link together a barrage of impressive turns to take the first round victory, thus eliminating Simpson from the event.
“That heat was so important for me to win for my ranking,” said Nakagima. “I knew Brett and Josh [Moniz] would be hard to beat, so getting a victory over them has left me feeling confident as I go into the next round.”
Gony Zubizarreta (Spain) put on a strong performance in his opening battle with Australian’s Kalani Ball (Stanwell Park, NSW) and Jared Hickel (Cronulla, NSW) and Michael February (South Africa). In the relatively wave-starved heat, Zubizarreta managed to strike first blood, locking in an excellent 9.40 wave score for a series of enormous frontside snaps on a board given to him by fellow Qualifying Series surfer Mitchell Coleborn.
“That 9.40 felt really good. The wave itself just stood up and ran perfectly down the bank,” said Zubizarreta. “My strategy was to get the biggest wave of the heat and fortunately I got it, but then we were all left needing back-up scores. I’m stoked that it went my way.” Marco Giorgi (Uruguay) didn’t let the declining swell slow him down, posting the highest heat total of the event, 19.06 (out of a possible 20 points). Giorgi is hot off a series of decent results in recent Qualifying Series events at Great Lakes and Newcastle, where he locked in quarterfinal and round five finishes respectively.
“We’ve come off two events where we had a pretty big swell, so I knew I needed to change my equipment to cater to these small, but fun waves,” said Giorgi. “Hopefully I can keep the ball rolling as I go into the next round and the waves stay like this. If they do, I think everyone will be pretty stoked.”
In a day dominated by international surfers, local and former CT surfer Nathan Hedge (Narrabeen, NSW) mustered up some last minute heroics to sneak into the runner-up position and book himself a spot in the second round. With the heat being dominated by Noah Schweizer (USA), Hedge spent a solid portion of the battle in third position, requiring a mid-range seven-point ride to progress through the heat. However, with only a minute left on the clock, Hedge posted a 7.57, which propelled him into the runner-up spot ahead of Olamana Eleogram (Hawaii).
“That final wave was one of the better looking waves I’d seen in that heat, so I was just excited to have some green face to play with. I wasn’t actually thinking too much about the scores I needed or anything like that. I was just in the moment,” said Hedge. “We travel all the way to the other side of the world to surf in events like this, so it just feels nice and refreshing to have one only ten minutes from my front door.”
Number one seed and local Kai Otton (Manly, NSW) suffered a shock loss in second round falling victim to Surfest runner-up Leonardo Fioravanti (Italy) and Lucas Silveira (Brazil). Despite moments of brilliance, the CT surfer failed to find the required 5.91 wave score needed to move into round three.