After a steady start to the South American leg of the APB World Tour in Arica, I was feeling good going into the 2018 Itacoatiara Pro. After my headbutt to the Arica reef, I just needed to get some stitches out of my head, along with a few nagging thoughts on my mind.
After two days of avoiding the picturesque beach break that is the Itacoatiara beach, watching the trials for the main event unfold, I decided that my head wound had healed enough and that the stitches could come out. Lewy Finnigan attended to the task, carefully removing the stitches while checking that the wound was properly healed.
With surf conditions settling significantly after the trials event, matters were put on hold. We were able to chill on the beach and enjoy the amazing scenery from the rocks that rise above this beach paradise. The beach turned into a hive of public activity, including beach volley and soccer, along with a bunch of bodyboarders (The Squad!) trying to ride the waves while stand up.
Into the first session round of competition and the going was tough. After the extended chill break on the beaches, I initially felt a little out of touch on my board. I started the heat with some good scores, despite flying into the first wave for an invert that was scored as incomplete. This was followed by a quick 6.5 for a backflip and a few more lower scores. Paddling back into the lineup, I noticed a good wave on the left. I turned and paddled hard, scooping under the lip and flying through the barrel, emerging and skimming quickly across flat water to follow with 2 rolls on the end section. This put me into a good position with a 7.75, and a place higher up the leaderboard used to reflect the top 3 scoring rides for each rider’s three session heats. A hit on another wave on the left earned a 5.4 for an air reverse. I was happy to finish Round 1 in a top 3 position on the leaderboard.
Into the second session round, the competition was hotting up and I needed to improve on the lower of my 3 counting scores. I started the heat reasonably well but seemed to come up short while hitting chop in the waves. At the time, it really seemed as though it was just not going to be my day. Under priority, I managed to get a sound line up with a solid wave which wrapped and allowed me to hit a good air reverse. This added a 7.25 to my tally of 3 scores. Session round 2 closed to have me in a sound 3rd position behind fellow Saffa, Tristan Roberts, and Amaury Laverhne in first place.
Into the second day of competition, and waves had deteriorated. Waves were in the 3-4ft range with a slight onshore wind. I was up against Maxime Castillo, Nicolas Chiara and Sammy Morretino in the 3rd , and final session, of the qualifying rounds and needing to improve on my lowest score of 6.5. I changed tactics and tried waiting for a good wave but seemed to lose the rhythm of the ocean, missing the opportunity to get a single wave with an improved score. I finished round 3 of the session component of the competition on a total score on 21.75 for my 3 scoring rides, in 5th position of the qualifying 16 riders on the leaderboard. In to Round 4 and a step closer to the finals!
In Round 4, the first of the man-on-man elimination rounds, I was drawn against local boy, Socrates Santana. We started off by trading some mid-range scores. He scored a 6.25 for his first ride while I ended up with a 5. The heat slowed but I kept busy for most of the heat, getting smaller scores. Socrates still held a small advantage over me. I then saw a wave forming left. In an instant, I turned and paddled hard to get onto the wave. It seemed to speed off, with me playing catchup. I managed to backdoor the barrel which then sent me flying out in front of the wave. I bottom-turned and went into a clean roll, looking back to see if I had a clear sight of the judges before ducking out of the back of the wave. The score came through as a 7.5 and I knew that Socrates would only need a small score to advance ahead of me. In the dying minutes, the current forced me away from my opponent and onto the other side of a bad rip. I tried to paddle around, but I was too late. Socrates took off, going into a clean backflip and, unfortunately for him, came unstuck… I was through to the quarter finals!
Into the 3rd, and final, day of competition and I felt that things were starting to click. I walked down to the beach to look at the waves. In the early morning light, I could see what appeared to be some of the best waves of the competition building. I ran back home to get ready, doing some stretching and warm-ups in preparation. I felt a real buzz of excitement (probably also due to the strong Brazilian coffee that I had just brewed!). I also managed to chat to family and friends, along with Phil Nel, at home in South Africa. All seemed to be falling into place.
The quarter-finals……and I was up against Eder Luciano, a Brazilian rider with a great deal of APB Tour experience. I reverted to my “go to” competition mode and got busy from the start. This paid off as I started to build scores, getting a 4.75, backing it up with a 5.25, and then a 6. Eder had a slow start and only managed to get three waves in the heat. In the dying moments, I went on a wave and left Eder out in the lineup needing a 5.5. He missed the opportunity and I was through to the semi-final of the Itacoatiara Pro.
On my way into the semi-finals, I had stopped by and chatted to Tanner McDaniel. We watched multiple waves fire off on the left of the beach, many of which seemed to have crazy scoring potential. I watched the waves while sipping on Tanner’s coffee and açaí. We both decided that the left looked like the best option with the least current and foam on the face.
I was up against PLC so I understood that I had a really big challenge coming my way. The game plan was the same; stay as busy as the previous heat. I waited on the left-handers for some time, looking to see which waves would be best. And there it was; I paddled into my first scoring ride which ran down the beach, allowing me to carry through with speed and to hit the lip for a good air reverse. I felt that I had found the right spot to look for a likely wave and paddled back.
Pierre was sitting further down the beach when one of the best waves I had seen appeared from the deep. I watched as it lined up down the beach in a seemingly unbelievable manner. I paddled in slowly, dropped my legs, and scooped into a huge barrel. It ran all the way down the beach, allowing me to slow down inside and get the maximum barrel time possible. I remember seeing the end section, and with the speed I was carrying coming out of the barrel, went for a reverse and was shot out by the white water after landing. A 10 POINT RIDE! The highest score of the heat and the contest thus far! I ran around along the beach before heading out again. I knew that, in the time we had left, PLC had the ability to still get the two scores necessary to win the heat. I kept hunting for a better wave to improve my second score of 6.75. Time ran out and I was in to the final against friend, and fellow South African, Tristan Roberts.
I was so stoked to have made it to the final of the event. Sticking to the recipe for the contest, I moved to the same position on the beach and got busy. Barrel after barrel, I kept building scores, leaving Tristan to find waves further down the beach. I put together a score made up of a decent barrel for 6.5, backing it up with a 6.75, and able to hold the scoring edge. Tristan eventually went big, getting caught by the white water and unable to make the move count. The surf went flat, time ran out and the siren went to signal the end of competition.
I had achieved something that I didn’t know that I would be able to do at this powerful beach break. A win at the 2018 Itacoatiara Pro! It was a very special occasion to reach the beach and be embraced by members of The Squad and chaired up the beach by Jared Houston and Deon Meyer.
The standard of riding at the event was of the highest order. The bodyboarders are constantly pushing to get the sport to the next level and we now appear to be on to a sound format when it comes to competitive bodyboarding. Thanks to all who contributed to the success of the great event that was the 2018 Itacoatiara Pro: event staff, judges, Guiliana Lara and APB Tour officials.
A huge thanks to Philip Nel and his team at Le Roux and Nel Biokinetists for their help in getting me to peak fitness and a good mental level. I would also like to thank my family and friends for all their support, to my fans as well as my amazing girlfriend, Rosie, and the Lombard Family. To my mom, dad and stepfather: you guys are always encouraging me to pursue greatness in whatever I do! Can’t thank you all enough for instilling the best life lessons in me.
Lastly, and as always, I wish to direct a massive “shout out” to my sponsors for their constant support and words of encouragement to get me to the top once again! You are all helping me to pursue my goals and live my dream!
Looking forward to new experiences in Australia at the end of July.
All images by Tony D’Andrea