SAO MIGUEL, Azores/Portugal (Monday, August 9, 2010) – The Billabong Azores Islands Pro presented by Nissan, first ASP Men’s Prime event of the year in Europe and now one of the major ASP Women’s stop on the international schedule, will kick-off this Tuesday, August 10, on the beautiful island of Sao Miguel for an intense six-day window of world class surfing.
After a successful first edition in 2009 that saw some of the world’s best ASP athletes battle in the crystal-clear and warm waters of the Azores, this year’s new Prime status for the men’s and the launch of a 6-Star contest for the women makes the Billabong Azores Islands Pro one of the most exciting stops in the world.
“Last year was the first time an ASP sanctioned event was taking place in the Azores and all competitors and officials discovered an amazing potential,” ASP Europe Regional Manager Greg Puget said. “It is very consistent, the landscape is spectacular, the water is warm and we can’t wait to see both men and women world class athletes take to the water next week.”
In a year of transition for the ASP World Tour where both the world title race and qualifying path are being restructured, the event’s invaluable ratings’ points counting towards the new ASP World Rankings will be an opportunity for all ASP surfers to rise on the international stage, current endangered ASP Top 45 members looking for a finals’ berth to keep any requalification hopes alive.
Last year’s all-Brazilian final had seen powerhouse Willian Cardoso finish ahead current ASP World title race rookie Jadson Andre and the 2010 edition is already guaranteed to host big names including former three-time ASP World Champion Tom Curren (California, USA) as a wildcard along with fifteen ASP Top 45 elite members including Portugal’s frontrunner Tiago Pires (Ericeira, PRT), equal 3rd in 2009.
“I love to compete in events in Portugal and I think I have the luck of having one of the warmest and more passionate public in the world,” Pires said. “Portuguese are very proud of their own people especially when they are fighting overseas on the name of the country.”
Pires, who remains in good position to make the dramatic cut when the elite field goes down to thirty-two after the Billabong Pro Tahiti by this month’s end, has already showed how comfortable he is in the Azores’ solid surf and will be a favourite for the crown.
“I love the Island and the ambiance, so I’m really looking forward to coming back. My year has been great, a couple of 9th places and 17th got me in a good place to qualify for the second half of the year, and now I have to concentrate on the next very important contests coming my way.”
Starting one day before the men, the ASP Women’s 6-Star competition will feature nine of the current ASP Top 17, the elite field of women’s surfing in the world. Coming to the archipelago for the first time and looking for precious ratings’ points to maintain her elite seat will be France and Europe’s current ASP World title race athlete Lee-Ann Curren (Biarritz, FRA), the 20-year-old surfer having just recovered from a knee injury and chasing a solid result to get back on track.
“I am happy to go and discover the Azores Islands,” Curren said. “My knee feels pretty good but my main focus remains the next ASP Women’s World Tour event in Portugal so I have no pressure at all. It’s all about enjoying and possibly getting a result.”
The ASP Men’s Prime and Women’s 6-Star Billabong Azores Islands Pro pres. by Nissan will be webcast LIVE at www.aspeurope.com and www.aspworldtour.com and starring former ASP World Champion Mark Occhilupo (Gold Coast, AUS) as web announcer.