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Six heats. Three hours of surfing. It was never going to be a long day for the Men's QS 10,000, but with a much-appreciated shot of south swell rolling into the Huntington Pier, the energy level for the remainder of Round 4 had clearly intensified.
"I like that feeling of knowing that you only have one heat to focus on," said Tanner Gudauskas, who chalked up a heat win over Cam Richards and Miguel Pupo. "It's fun that way because you really have to prepare yourself and bring your best performance for 30 minutes. You don't have to think too far ahead."
"Morning heats are always so tricky for me," added Gudauskas. "You have to do more homework because there's no real bar set yet in terms of what guys are getting scores for."
With the added swell and dwindling number of heats left in the round, the level of intensity in the lineup was evident as competitors negotiated the tricky three-man format.
"When you're talking about points, the gap between rounds is huge, so it's really important to make every heat," said Jadson Andre, who eked out a win over Michael Rodrigues and Tanner Hendrickson.
From Round 5 on, the contest change will shift to two-man, which may favor the more seasoned surfers with Championship Tour experience.
"I'm really stoked to be in the man-on-man," continued Andre. "I always say that when you get to the man-on-man heats a new contest starts. It's totally different."
Closing out the round, it was a nail-biter between defending Open champ Kanoa Igarashi, Patrick Gudauskasand Evan Geiselman. A back-and-forth, the lead changed hands a number of times throughout the heat, Igrashi survived a last-second charge from Gudauskas and Geiselman to keep his dreams of taking back-to-back Open titles.
"Now we're in the backend of the event where you have to buckle down and go for the win," said Igarashi.
By 11:00am the men were done for the day and it was finally time for the Women's CT to take the water.
"I'm going to have a good sleep tonight and wake up knowing that this is where the competition starts," noted Igarashi before packing it in for the day.
The next call will be Saturday morning at 7:00am PDT.