Brazilian natural-footed powerhouse Tomas Hermes stands five foot-five, the same size as a barefoot Tom Carroll, and has a similar strong and determined approach to his surfing. He has come really close to qualifying for the Championship Tour (CT) before, with an 18th-place finish on the Qualifying Series (QS) in 2016, but last year it didn't end that well for the determined professional.
"I think last year was a good and a bad year for me," said Hermes. "I injured myself in Hawaii two days before the last event of the year, which was a pity. This year is better than last year for sure, I'm not really looking for the points at this stage, in fact I just want to look after myself."
Hermes endeared himself to the South African surfing fans when he surfed as a wildcard in the 2015 J-Bay Open. He didn't advance out of the second round in that event, but he was a friendly and buoyant character, and a fun surfer to have around.
In his early morning heat today, Tomas had a tough draw against Mikey Wright, Leo Fioravanti and Jacob Willcox. Wright's drawn-out turns, power snaps and quick whips at Ballito were reminiscent of Matt Hoy in his heyday. To round out the picture, the mountain and the wave logo on his board and the funky hairstyle all harkened back to the flamboyant Matt Hoy and his no-nonsense approach to power- surfing. It was heat number 7 of the third round, and Wright looked impressive from the get-go, with an early 7.83 putting him in the pound seat. A polished young Fioravanti, from Italy, was doing the hard work just behind him, hungry to advance. Toward the end of the heat Hermes was in third, while Willcox, from Australia, couldn't buy a good wave out there and was trailing in fourth.
It was going down to the wire, when Hermes (who, it should be noted arrived at this event ranked No. 71 on the QS -- far, far away from the qualification cutoff.) picked up a bomb. He raced down the line before squaring up and cracking the lip with full speed. He's a powerful surfer, and he carried through with three more such turns, pushing them with as much vigor as possible.
The judges loved it and rewarded him with an 8.17 and this score, combined with his previous 7.17, let Hermes leapfrog into the lead. The rest of the surfers in the heat started desperately trolling the inside for another wave, but the ocean fizzled for them, and Hermes and Wright advanced, bouncing a somewhat stunned Fioravanti out the event, and a disappointed Willcox also packing up his bags.
"It was a really great heat," said an elated Hermes. "It is so hard here, because everyone is fired up to go big you know, but I'm here to go big as well. I was a bit nervous near the end but finally I got a good score on the last wave."