It's hard not to get excited about the path that Brett Simpson and Tanner Gudauskas are on. It all started when they sprung back into attention at the Hurley Pro at Trestles as wildcards. Brett won the Hurley Pro Trials and Tanner won the local Pro Division trials, and as a result they both received wildcard slots into the main event. They both capitalized on this, with Brett getting into the quarter-finals and Tanner making the semi-finals, beating many seasoned Championship Tour surfers along the way.
Their impassioned approaches to requalification since then, have both caught the imagination of the fans and other competitors. It's almost as if they are being willed to succeed. Tanner, sitting at No. 31 on the QS ratings, has the best chance.
Their progress through the Billabong Pro Cascais pres. by Allianz has been solid, with strong approaches to every heat, and big battles when needed. In Heat 5 Connor O'Leary had a convincing lead, veteran competitor Tom Whitaker was in second, with Brett trailing.
Not one to give up, even though he needed a big score, Simpo fought tooth and nail, including a great recovery move to get the score needed as well as a second score, and to advance, along with O'Leary. It was that time when he needed to dig deep, and that he did, netting the score needed to get the nod over the veteran Whitaker.
It's almost a shame that they had to meet in Round Five, but it would have been astronomical odds for them both to keep going at opposite ends of the draw and meet in in the finals. Even so, their encounter was an inspiring moment in our sport. Tanner had the upper hand from the start, and at the closure of their heat they shared a wave in, body-boarded in together, and shook hands in a good sportsmanship moment. "Brett and I, it feels like we've been eating the same stuff for breakfast," said Tanner after the heat. "We're both deep in the cheap seats. Tomorrow I'm looking forward to, and with Guincho you never know what you're going to get, it's always a surprise."
What wasn't a shame however was the judges scoring a perfect ten for a single move. Goofy surfer Jesse Mendes pumped down the line on a fast, clean left hander, launched into the air and continued for a full forehand rotation to land in front of the wave, facing the beach, to continue to ride smoothly. It was radical, it was seamless, it was polished and it was extremely progressive, leaving the judges with nowhere to go but ten points, much to Yago Dora's frustration, and Tatiana Weston-Webb's delight. The two have been dating for a while now, and support each other whenever their competitive surfing paths meet up at the same place, like here at Cascais.
During the day of high emotions it was a bitter defeat that saw Stu Kennedy ousted, and it was a hard loss that saw Jadson Andre eliminated by a precise Joan Duru, but then the good stuff came flooding back in when Jeremy Flores advanced by finding a rhythm, and absolutely smashed it. No matter which way you look at it, Jeremy needs a result at this event, and he knows that. He banked a score of 15.5 in the first six minutes of his heat in round four, showing his demeanor to this event and to his career in general. The man is driven. He continued that drive through to his Round Five win against Soli Bailey.
As is Ryan Callinan. While he might seem cheerful and somewhat light-of-heart in the post heat interviews, underneath that smile beats a driven heart and a desire to be a champion. That desire, combined with his raw talent, is what his coach Richard ‘Dog' Marsh has been nurturing for the last 8 years to so, finely-tuning the fast and aggressive goofy-footer into a contest machine. He's sitting on the cusp of qualifying via the QS and another solid result will solidify his chances. After trailing against Italo Ferreira he came on strong with a clearly evident killer instinct, smashing it in what had become somewhat mediocre conditions and leaving the powerful and dynamic Brazilian goofy-footer in the dust.