The FireWire E-Pro USA presented by Futures dwindled down to the final eight surfers after some astounding Round 4 submissions. In-form competitors continued to lay waste to their challengers with all four San Clemente, California, representatives charging into the Quarterfinals alongside the lone East Coaster and fellow Southern California surfers. Now these eight will fight for a chance to make their Semifinal berth and claim their spot into the Surf Web Series Online World Championships.
Fan voting can sway who advances and who doesn’t alongside the top-tier Surf Web Series judging panel which happened right out of the gates in Round 4 Heat 1. Rob Kelly’s heaving New Jersey barrel earned a decisive win with two first-place and two-second place votes but a third-place fan vote left him vulnerable alongside Wesley Santos and Austin Smith-Ford. Both Santos’ massive full rotation and Smith-Ford’s Santa Cruz rigthand dreamer earned two-third place and two second-place votes from the judges leaving it to the fans. In the end Santos earned the deciding first-place vote and moved into the Quarterfinals.
From then on it was a San Clemente sweep of Heats 2, 3, and 4 starting with Kei Kobayashi taking to his backhand on a Lower Trestles bombing lefthander this time. Kevin Schulz’s jaw-dropping straight air was more than enough to earn him runner-up with all the judges voting second-place over Jake Halstead’s three-turner from Windansea.
Next was another banger from Kade Matson on a Lowers righthander once more and showcasing even more of his variety keeping the board on rail until an explosive finish. But, a surprise finish awaited with Ben Benson earning the nod over internet sensation Jacob Szekely after Benson’s Huntington Beach, California, gem allowed him to put on a show of his own.
IMAGE: Kade Matson - Banzai Pipeline (Photo @badboyryry_)
A photo-finish went down in Heat 4 to close out Round 4 with Cole Houshmand taking over and earning three first-place votes for his two-hit wonder on a Lowers right. However, a near-split decision determined runner-up between Dimitri Poulos’ forehand attack and Nolan Rapoza’s throaty barrel-to-turn combination in Newport Beach, California. When the dust settled, Rapoza’s two first-place votes, including fan voting, and one second-place vote outweighed Poulos’ two second-place votes by a solid margin.
IMAGE: Cole Houshmand - North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii (Photo @friedenpete)
Tune in for Quarterfinal voting Friday, March 19, at 12 p.m. PST to cast your vote in helping sway who makes their way into the Semifinals and a spot in the World Championships.