The remaining 48 surfers of the O’Neill Highland Open by Swatch experienced typical Scottish weather today, battling it out for a Round 4 ticket in wind-blown three foot waves at Brims Ness.
Today’s main upset came with the elimination of Nathan Hedge (AUS), defending Highland Open champion, who lost to Nic Muscroft (AUS) and Rhys Bombaci (AUS) in Heat 7.
Josh Kerr (Gold Coast, AUS), 24, who failed to requalify for the ASP World Tour in 2007, dominated Heat 2 with his custom-made flying turns posting an excellent 16.66 point heat score (out of possible 20), best of the day and second best of the event.
“The waves were really harder than I thought,” Kerr said. “I thought it was going to be fun and I was really surprised when I got there because the swell direction changed. The wave was not breaking where I expected it to break but I am stoked to make it.”
Hugo Savalli (REU), who placed 5th in the ASP WQS 4-Star event in France two weeks ago, won Heat 8 ahead of Eric Geiselman (USA) defeating former ASP World Tour surfer Yuri Sodre (BRA).
“It was not that much fun out there,” Savalli said. “I got one long wave and did a couple of turns so I am stoked to make that heat actually. It is a lot more fun to end up winning this one than surfing it!”
Savalli, who went through a couple of heats in Margaret River and made the quarterfinals in France, is on a good roll and will be surfing against Nic Muscroft (AUS) and 2006 O’Neill Highland Open runner-up Bernardo Miranda (BRA).
Gony Zubizarreta (ESP) flew the Spanish flag today and advanced in the tricky conditions, besting Marlon Lipke (DEU) to finish second behind current WQS top surfer David Weare (ZAF). Zubizarreta, a former amateur Junior World Champion, was of one of six Europeans out of 12 to advance.
“It was a tough heat out there and the waves were really hard to catch,” Zubizarreta said. “The wind made the faces of the waves bumpy and it was not an easy time. I was more surfing against the elements than against my opponents.”
Zubizarreta, who secures his best result of the year so far by reaching Round 4, will face ASP World Tour rookie Jay Thompson (AUS) and Glenn Hall (IRE) when competition resumes.
The European contingent lost two of its top representatives today, both Tim Boal (FRA) and Tiago Pires (PRT) bowing out of the Highland Open in Round 3.
Pires, one of four Europeans currently among the ASP Top 45, was eliminated in the dying seconds of Heat 3 by fellow Euro surfer Joan Duru (FRA). Pires, who has had a tough start on the Dream Tour, placed 3rd in Durban last week but failed at Brims and leaves Scotland with 1050 points counting for the World Qualifying Series (WQS) ratings.
The O’Neill Highland Open by Swatch is getting closer to its business end. The waiting period runs until Wednesday April 30 and 23 heats remain before we crown the 2008 Highlander. There will be 24 men paddling out when competition resumes tomorrow and better weather and waves are expected.