Experience makes the man, and as some of the younger, less experienced surfers started to drop away on Saturday at the Quiksilver Pro Portugal, it was evident that it was going to take a little something extra to push into the money rounds.
After the frivolous, "no loser" Round 4, when the contest started to matter again, Jeremy Flores opened Round 5 with a commanding win over Cory Lopez. And while Lopez has ample experience, Flores has been riding a wave of support from both Europe and sponsor Quiksilver throughout the event.
Then it was Californian Pat Gudauskas's turn to get into the act. In Round 5 he dispatched surging Brazilian Junior Faria with a down-to-the-wire 8.5, a score that pushed him into what's already his best Prime result of 2011.
"You just never know which waves are going to turn into a good one," told Gudauskas of the tricky conditions. "This morning I was waiting for a good one and watching Junior he sort of had that strategy in this heat. He was sitting a little too deep and waiting a little more so I was trying to ride waves and let my surfing do the talking. You never know which are going to be the good ones."
Julian Wilson's "still truckin' along," still in the hunt, searching for something to kick-start his mojo as he heads into the U.S. Open next month. Wilson very much needs to final for his trip to Ericeira to be a success. The heat draw is on his side, and besides, after this he gets a nice little vacation in Bali (where a bombing swell looms on the forecast), so it's time to bear down and man up.
And then there's 27-year-old Kiwi Jay "Don't Call Me A Dark Horse" Quinn -- who Wilson will face tomorrow in the quarters. Quinn smashed his Round 4 heat to earn himself a fast pass to the quarters. In fact, seems he's smashed most every heat he's surfed this event. A week ago you would never have picked him to be where he's at right now, but that said, Quinn's a journeyman, he's put in the hard yards, and eventually all hard work pays off.
Of the young pups still going, you shouldn't be surprised that Gabriel Medina is still going. The kid's hotter than hot, and now he'll have to prove himself against Flores if he wants to keep the heat on. He'll be joined by countryman Miguel Pupo, as well as Hawaii's John John Florence.
After sustaining a serious back injury at Pipe earlier in the year, Florence is riding high on recovery road, and is en route to his best finish since he won the Pipe Pro in February.
"It is my best result for a while. I hurt my back at Pipe when the lip hit me and I was out for about two months but I have come back and all is going well," told Florence.
The Quiksilver Pro Portugal will conclude tomorrow, stay tuned for results.
Upcoming Quiksilver Pro Portugal Quarterfinal Matchups
Heat 1: Gabriel Medina (BRA) Vs Jeremy Flores (FRA)
Heat 2: John John Florence (HAW) Vs Pat Gudauskas (USA)
Heat 3: Miguel Pupo (BRA) Vs Dion Atkinson (AUS)
Heat 4: Jay Quinn (NZL) Vs Julian Wilson (AUS)
Quiksilver Pro Portugal Round Five Results
Heat 1: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 16.83 Def. Cory Lopez (USA) 10.90
Heat 2: Pat Gudauskas (USA) 15.00 Def. Junior Faria (BRA) 11.00
Heat 3: Dion Atkinson (AUS) 11.64 Def. Davey Cathels (AUS) 11.17
Heat 4: Julian Wilson (AUS) 16.83 Def. Caio Ibelli (BRA) 8.10
Quiksilver Pro Portugal Round Four Results
Heat 1: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 15.67, Cory Lopez (USA) 11.07, Junior Faria (BRA) 9.37
Heat 2: John John Florence (HAW) 16.67, Pat Gudauskas (USA) 11.30, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 8.77
Heat 3: Miguel Pupo (BRA) 14.87, Davey Cathels (AUS) 12.54, Caio Ibelli (BRA) 7.03
Heat 4: Jay Quinn (NZL) 16.97, Julian Wilson (AUS) 12.44, Dion Atkinson (AUS) 8.60