This is the stage of a surfing contest where the battle turns bloody and the chips are down. Forced into the repercharge heats, where ‘sudden death’ elimination made every wave a “do or die” affair, unlikely countries fought their way to the next round with surprise results today at the Billabong ISA World Surfing Games fueled by Monster Energy.
Landlocked Germany’s Thomas Lange, along with tiny nation surfers like Salvadorian Porferio Miranda, Italy’s Federico Pilurzu, Costa Rican Luis Vindas, and Brian Sanford from the Dominican Republic pulled out all the stops to keep their World Games hopes alive.
“I was in last place until the final five minutes,” said Ecuadorian Dominic Barona, who won her heat against Brazil and Argentina. “Then I got one of the really rare perfect ones where I got 3 big moves and a 7 point score. That took me to first place from last!”
Underdogs like Mexico’s Angelo Lozano, Panamanian Gary Saavedra, Japan’s Kai Ojima, Argentine’s Leandro Ursena and Lucas Santamaria, Puerto Rican Brian Toth, all won their heats and moved straight through to the next round.
Big surf nation powerhouses brought all their guns blazing in these repercharge rounds too. Hawaii’s Roy Power’s, South African Rudy Palmbloom, Frenchman Mickey Picon, and Kristian Kimmerman and Marco Fernandez from Brazil all won their heats and moved their countries to a stronger position. Both Australians Mick Campbell and Matt Bemrose came back with a vengeance in their repercharge heat, reminding everyone the Aussies are the reigning champs from the 2008 event.
On the Women’s side, the number of nations that are still in contention is not only making it a very interesting race, but also become a component to the overall country ratings. With only one man left in the Italian contingent, young Agostina Pellizzari’s win and place in the repercharge was a huge boost to Italy. Venezuela, hardly a high rated favorite surf power, has enough contenders left to make Yocelyn Aldana win a big contribution even with difficult surf conditions.
“The waves were really tough out there, shifty, inconsistent, and mostly close outs,” said Venezuelan Maria Rojas, who couldn’t advance on just one good wave score. “But my team mate Yocelyn Aldana got through, so Venezuela is still in the running.”
Australia’s Samantha Cornish took a first in her repercharge battle helping to keep a less dominant Australia’s overall chances alive and well. But the talk of the women’s heats was young Hawaiian “Don’t messa with” Alessa Quizon. “Everyone was talking about Alessa,” Cornish was overheard saying. “She was on fire today.”
“Every girl out there is surfing well,” said Alessa Quizon, who garnered the two highest wave scores of the day from both her first and second heat, as well as the highest single heat total. “I don’t think about who I am surfing against, I just concentrate on the waves’ Alessa explained. “I think the surf was a little better at the 2nd podium today than in front of the hotel, so that helped me.”
Despite the serious competition in the water, with surfers cheering for their own teams and others marveling at the performances of others, the sense of global fun continued for a 3rd day. The days biggest star, Hawaiian Hank Gaskell who woke up the onlookers this morning with a whopping 8-point barrel, and a second 8.67 ride that gave him the best wave score of the round, summed it up: “I am really enjoying the time in Costa Rica. I love the ISA events, it is brilliant to see the people coming from many countries, it always generates such positive vibrations. It is not like in the WQS.”