The World Surf League (WSL) Men's Qualification Series (QS) Vans Pro QS3000 event continued on today in one-to-three foot swell as the lower seeds continued to showcase some high-performance surfing in the midst of heavy-hitters making their debuts. While nearly all of top seeds advanced to the Round of 32, it was not made easy on them by the talents of grinding young guns.
Noah Schweizer (USA) blasted through another heat, topping his own excellent 17.04 heat total with a contest-high 17.30 total. Posting an 8.87 and 8.43, the Floridian continued to pounce at opportunities given to him -- holding no reserve as he picked apart the 1st Street Jetty lineup. With a steady board under his feet, he is looking strong heading into the back half of the event.
"It feels really good to keep getting those scores," Schweizer said. "Some waves came my way and I was able to get some good turns in and get to the inside. I'm riding a Hydroplex epoxy and it's really helping me stay on top of the water to make the most of these waves. I just have to keep trying to post these kinds of scores and focus on the heat at hand - hopefully the waves keep coming my way."
Schweizer has his mind in the right place and will use tomorrow's Vans Pro Junior to continue his winning form. Joined by his brother Nils Schweizer (USA), who's also advanced through today's heats with a last second ride, the two have found the recipe of success.
"I'm with my brother so we're able to relax together and it helps keep my mind easy-going," Schweizer said. "We sit back and listen to music, try not to get too excited, and that helps keeps us in the moment. With the break from the Men's I'm going to surf my Junior's heat and afterwards maybe get away from the contest area for a bit to relax some more."
Posting a massive heat total of 17.17, Rafael Pereira (VEN) looked unstoppable in his Round 4 heat. Receiving plenty of waves despite the outgoing tide, the Venezuelan posted two excellent scores. With the win, Pereira is now into Round 5 in his first appearance at the Vans Pro on the shores of Virginia Beach, VA.
"I'm really stoked to get some good waves and make it through to the next round," Pereira said. "You just have to take it slow and keep taking it heat by heat out there - I'm going to give it my best for Venezuela. It's my first time here and I'm really enjoying the event. There's so much going on and it's really cool to see everything."
Though it's his first time here, Pereira knows what he has to do at the 1st Street Jetty with the grade of talent that surrounds him. With fellow countrymen Francisco Bellorin (VEN) eliminated, he's now the lone surfer from Venezuela, but is confident in his abilities to succeed.
"Going forward I have to stay focused and really go after it," Pereira said. "I'm stoked to be around so many good surfers and it makes me surf that much better. They are bringing out the best in me and that's what it's going to take in order to make it far in this contest."
Feeling right at home away from his native country of Japan, Hiroto Arai (JPN) cranked a contest-high, single-wave score of 9.23 in the smaller afternoon conditions. Arai found a diamond in the rough on his backhand and connected multiple times until nearly dry-docking on the sand. With tomorrow's Men's event on hold, the Japanese surfer will also use the Vans Pro Junior heats to stay sharp before enjoying time to himself.
"It was pretty fun out there and was a lot like my homebreak," Arai said. "It was peaky but when I found that left bowl and I tried to put in a lot of good hits -- when I got that nine I was so stoked. It was a mid-size set wave, nothing too big, and it doubled up perfect for me. I'm just going to relax tomorrow and prepare for the next heat mentally - try spend some time away from the site after my Junior's heats."
Doc Taylor/Tautog's Trials winner Jairo Perez (CRI) is making every heat count at the Vans Pro, taking a win in Round 4 and feeling comfortable out in the water. Gaining confidence with each wave, the Costa Rican native is humbled by the opportunity to be in this event and wants to go toe-to-toe with the world's best.
"I'm so stoked to finally make it into this event after I've tried and not succeeded in the last few years," Perez said. "I just want to keep trying to make more heats and even a shot at the finals -- everyone wants it just as bad but I'll give it my best. Anything can happen in these conditions, you just have to be sitting in the right spot and hopefully you get a wave that comes your way. I was really comfortable after scoring my eight - especially in these tougher conditions, so I'm stoked and just thank God for everything."
The Vans Pro Men's QS3000 event will be on standby Wednesday, as the Vans Pro Junior will hit the water. There is a 7:00am call for a possible 7:30am start.