With only 3 days before the start of the ASP World Tour Quiksilver Pro France event, the ASP PRIME Billabong Pro Azores drew some of the current and former ASP Elite 34 looking for valuable points to either stay on tour, or re-qualify for 2012. Ten year ASP veteran and 2001 World Champion CJ Hobgood was one of the freshly cut World Tour surfers and used the Billabong Pro Azores to show the world that he still has what it takes to be in the big leagues.
CJ surfed with reckless abandon throughout the event. He was not concerned about his spot in the ratings anymore and appeared to be surfing for the fun of it. He routinely punted huge airs and laid down some vicious rail carves from Round 1 all the way through to the final.
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“It was an amazing last five minutes,” said a stoked CJ after the win. “The first 30 minutes I was in melt down mode and Yeomans was getting all the waves and I couldn’t get more than a 3. I kept putting my head down and the conditions are so testing just mentally and physically not knowing which is a good wave or a bad wave. I kept trying and didn’t give up and the next thing I knew I was in the lead and the heat was over. I want to improve on my surfing and these kids that are on tour are doing airs all the time so I wanted to pull that into my game a little more. I don’t know what it looked like but I was just trying to change stuff and mix it up. I hadn’t been to the Azores so I wanted to do something different and whatever I did I wanted to switch it up and have fun and I’m stoked to win this contest.”
San Clemente’s Nate Yeomans was the in-form surfer throughout the event and made it to the finals after taking out ASP World Tour competitors and young upstarts alike. Nate ripped in the trials of the last ASP PRIME event at the US Open of Surfing, but was underscored on a huge backside 360 air and missed the main event. You could see in his surfing that he wanted to show that he was meant to be there. Although conditions throughout the event ranged from perfect overhead barrels to messy overhead peaks, Nate out-surfed every competitor en route to the final with CJ and came up just short of the win in the dying minutes of the heat.
“It was one of those damned if you do, damned if you don’t situations. There were two minutes left and it was tough,” claimed Yeomans. “In hindsight I would have gone but the thing had only one move and he (Hobgood) maximized it. It was a tough one to let go by and I saw some air and I heard the crowd go wild. I’m still stoked with second, and I haven’t been on the podium for a while so I’m stoked.”
New Zealand’s Jay Quinn and Brazil’s Thiago Camarao were consistently racking up high heat scores until they were stopped by CJ and Nate in the semis. Both Quinn and Camarao were stoked to get the PRIME rating points in their bids to make the 2012 World Tour.
ASP World Tour newcomer Miguel Pupo kept his competitive energy going leading up to the next WT event and made it all the way to the quarter finals. He surfed solid throughout the event and routinely posted high scores for his airs in every heat.
Another ASP World Tour competitor, Fred Pattachia, surfed strong in the Azores and made it all the way to the quarters. Pattachia used his rail surfing as well as heat strategy and tactics to make it past less experienced pros. It was nice to see Freddy surf well and use the wisdom that comes with being a veteran on tour.
Rounding out the rest of the quarterfinals were Brazil’s Leonardo Neves and young superstar Kolohe Andino. Leonardo man-handled every section with powerful snaps and carves but was defeated by Quinn. Andino surfed radically in all his heats but fell to CJ. Andino suffered from a few rookie mistakes like giving up priority after taking low scoring waves, and letting good waves slip under him while having priority.
Overall, the Billabong Pro Azores ASP PRIME event was a huge success for the ASP, the Azores, and Billabong. The ASP secured some heavy interest from the growing European fan base, the Azores were allowed to showcase their beautiful islands to the world while increasing tourism, and Billabong triumphed once again by bringing surf fans the best webcasts on the internet. And the best part of the event? Definitely the fact that OCCY got to surf and made it to Round 2! It doesn’t get better than that does it? – Ryan Richardson
All photos courtesy ASP Images.