Ian Gouveia and Justine Dupont have won the 2016 Azores Airlines Pro pres. by Sumol in three-to-five foot surf at Monte Verde beach, concluding an exciting week of high-performance surfing in beautiful Azores. Gouveia defeated form Hawaiian Ezekiel Lau while Dupont managed to overcome young Hawaiian Brisa Hennessy in their respective finals.
Gouveia and Lau got up to a quick start as an early exchange gave Lau the nod with a 7.33 over the Brazilian's 4.5. Gouveia continued to surf average waves and managed to turn the lead as Lau couldn't find a decent back-up.
On the five-minute mark, the Brazilian selected a much better wave under his opponent's priority and locked in three big turns for a 7.60 to make Lau's job much harder. The Hawaiian lost priority with only a minute remaining and Gouveia walked away with the win.
"I'm so stoked to keep my good rhythm, after that final in Pantin I honestly just wouldn't have been happy with anything else than a win here," he reflected. "It feels unreal, this is my biggest win ever and it's going to change my season around for sure. I'm used to battle to stay in the Top 100 and now I'm going to maybe battle for qualification so that's incredible."
Fresh off another final in Galicia last week, Gouveia kept his momentum coming in to this event, and posted six heat wins on his way to a maiden Qualifying Series victory. The talented Brazilian proved efficient in all kind of conditions over the past couple of weeks and adapted his surfing accordingly, going through all the surfing repertoire of power moves and aerial maneuvers to beat all his opponents.
"I tried to just stay on my game, and capitalize on whatever opportunity presented itself, if I had a big air section in the final I would have hit it for sure, but it was more a traditional turns kind of heat and that was fun too. My goal now is to try and keep that rhythm going, do well in Cascais and see what the rest of season brings. I can't thank enough my family and friends supporting me and all the guys here too, we're a big family and it's great to have them behind me."
Sitting in 10th position on the QS rankings before today, Lau's runner-up result will see him bumped up a few spot and one step closer to the coveted qualification for the Samsung Galaxy Men's Championship Tour. A rather discrete surfer before finals day, the Hawaiian took his act to the next level to defeat Maxime Huscenot and Quiksilver teammate Leonardo Fioravanti on his way to the final.
"I'm very happy with how things played out, I had a really good event and put together some good heats," he said. "I'm stoked to be in the final and good job Ian, he surfed well!. I was looking to backup my big result in South Africa, I did that here and I'm happy.
"I felt really strong here, and I think I slowly made progress and I thought I would really peak in the final, unfortunately I made a little tactical error but I'll learn from it, move on and try to be better in the next one."
In the women's final, Dupont and Hennessy got busy early on to avoid some of the wave-starved scenarios seen earlier in the day, and both posted an average score to their scoreboard to build a little momentum. The young Hawaiian up-and-comer was first to really capitalize with a 7.33 to take an early option for victory.
Dupont answered with a two-turn combo on a good looking left but the wave fattened out a little bit, not offering the steep sections the French surfer has been so keen to hit prior to the final, and her score of 6.17 reflected the lesser degree of difficulty. On the five-minute mark, Dupont gave it another go on a longer wave which she concluded with a committed floater on a meaty section for a 7.33 of her own to steal the lead.
Hennessy got a final opportunity and performed an excellent first turn, unfortunately the wave quickly shut down, not giving the young Hawaiian much potential for a score. Time quickly winded down from there, crowning Dupont as the 2016 Azores Airlines Pro pres. by Sumol Champion.
"I'm super happy to win again today, I'll get a few more points on my season tally but most of all this is great for my confidence levels," she admitted. "I started the year well and then had a pretty terrible run through the mid-season, before I started training with an awesome mental coach. Since then I haven't done worse than the quarters so I think that shows I'm getting a lot more consistent and strong."
Coming to Azores in 10th position on the Qualifying Series, Dupont will slightly improve her situation but still needs to apply her excellent form in the next bigger events coming up in Costa Rica, Japan and Australia if she wants to re-qualify for the prestigious Women's CT.
"I think I've matured quite a bit and am definitely a smarter competitor now, so fingers crossed all this hard work will continue to pay off for the rest of the season and results will follow," she continued. "Either way I'll have no regrets as I really gave it every I had so far and will continue to do so."
16-year-old Hennessy claimed the biggest result of her young career today as the junior surfer from Oahu is only just starting to experience the Qualifying Series. Hennessy showed great potential displaying her amazing skills, and even claimed the women's event's highest single-scoring ride, a near-perfect 9.17 in her semifinal against former CT surfer Pauline Ado
"I'm so happy with my result, and especially to go up against Justine, she's so amazing and I look up to her so much," she said. "It's my first final in a QS and I'm just over the moon. I got on a bit of a roll and got some good heats so I'm stoked. I came here mostly for practice as we have an amateur event next week so to get to the final is great, and I'm getting more comfortable with this break so hopefully that can be an advantage."
Following the completion of this event, the European Rankings have been once again shuffled and the Top5 stands as follows:
Men's European QS:
1 - Jonathan Gonzalez (CNY)
2 - Joan Duru (FRA)
3 - Pedro Henrique (PRT)
3 - Marc Lacomare (FRA)
5 - Jorgann Couzinet (REU)
Women's European QS:
1 - Justine Dupont (FRA)
2 - Pauline Ado (FRA)
3 - Ariane Ochoa (EUK)
4 - Garai Sanchez-Ortun (EUK)
5 - Maud Le Car (FRA)
Surfers will now fly back East and head to Morocco for the Quiksilver & Roxy Pro Casablanca, a men and women's QS1,500 unfolding from September 13-18, 2016.