Decisive eliminations ensued for the FireWire E-Pro USA presented by Futures in Round 3 of competition after voting came to a close at 12pm PST Tuesday. The event shed four more surfers out of the draw and now only 12 remain to fight for the inaugural event title heading into a three-man bout in Round 4.
Round 3 offered more highly anticipated heats to determine the who was sent packing from the remaining sixteen competitors and jaw-droppers were aplenty. San Clemente, California, competitors stole the show once again after their Round 1 success with three of four heat wins and four surfers into the Quarterfinals including Cole Houshmand, Kade Matson, Kevin Schulz, and Kei Kobayashi.
Event standout and threat Houshmand returned after his Round 1 victory and delivered brilliance once more from the world-class break of Lower Trestles. The 20-year-old is a mere bike ride from the iconic cobblestones and his forehand attack on the lefthander looks unstoppable with a variety of rail gauging turns, to air-reverse combinations. The sole remaining East Coast talent Rob Kelly earned an easy runner-up finish with three second-place votes on his New Jersey bombing barrel to eliminate Sam Coffey with Jake Halstead’s Windandsea performance enough to survive the cut.
Matson and Schulz took over Heat 2 claiming all the first and second-place votes with fans playing a decisive role as their vote garnered Matson the win. The 19-year-old’s Lowers submission had the voters sold on his immaculate display starting with a massive air-reverse before laying waste to the wave. Blink and you may miss Schulz’s lightning fast, full rotation to steal the show away from Tyler Gunter’s Newport Beach, California, gem while Austin Smith-Ford’s aggressive forehand display in Santa Cruz, California keeps him moving forward.
Heat 3 belonged to Kobayashi in pumping Lowers with his full arsenal of maneuvers adding to the showcase. Jacob Szekely and Nolan Rapoza went down to the wire in a near fan vote off but Szekely earned the judges nod with three second-place votes for his explosive effort at Mission Beach. But, Rapoza’s rifling barrel Cylinders on his backhand was enough to take down event threat and World Surf League Qualifying Series veteran Michael Dunphy.
IMAGE: Kei kobayashi - San Clemente, California (Photo: @evo_n8)
Finally Heat 4 finished with a bang from Wesley Santos who put on clinic at the iconic world-class break of Lowers which remains unmatched in competition so far. Former International Surf Association U-18 Gold Medalist Dimitri Poulos took the winning share of second-place votes three-to-one over Ben Coffey’s Hail Mary air-reverse. However, Ben Benson’s Lowers forehand bombardment tallied him a split decision was enough to overtake Coffey and eliminate the remaining Coffey brother.
IMAGE: Wesley Santos - Huntington Beach, California (Photo: @joefosterphoto)
Round 4 voting begins Wednesday, March 17, at 12 p.m. PST to determine who will be the FireWire E-Pro USA presented by Futures Quarterfinalists. Also, tune in live at 12 p.m. PST thursday, March 18, for the Live Talk Powered by FireWire with Tyler Gunter.