The Outerknown Fiji Pro, Stop No. 5 on the 2017 World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), decided the first four Quarterfinalists today after the completion of non-elimination Round 4 in clean four-to-five foot (1.2 – 1.5 metre) waves at Cloudbreak.
Matt Wilkinson (AUS), current World No. 5, was first to earn his place in the Quarterfinals after winning the opening heat of Round 4. Wilkinson posted an excellent 8.67 (out of a possible 10) and 5.60 with sharp frontside carves. Julian Wilson (AUS) and rookie Ian Gouveia (BRA) kept busy in the heat but could not find the scores to combat the 2016 event runner-up. The Australian is in a unique position to claim the coveted yellow Jeep Leader Jersey, but will need nothing short of the event win to be World No. 1.
“I got out here this morning and I expected it to be pretty average, but it is beautiful,” said Wilkinson. “I’ve just been freesurfing and keeping busy on those lay days, but stoked to get it back on and get some fun waves. Before last year, I’d never really had a big result here. To get to that Final last year was a pretty good confidence boost for me for this year.”
Michel Bourez (PYF) has yet to drop a heat in Fiji and will carry on to the final series for the second time this season. The Tahitian locked in mid-range attempts against rookie Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) and Italo Ferreira (BRA), but really heated up on his last two rides for a 15.73 combined score, including a near-perfect 9.00. Fioravanti and Ferreira will be relegated to elimination Round 5, while Bourez advances to the Quarterfinals.
“That wave just came through to me and was the biggest set of the morning,” Bourez said. “I got some little barrels before, but I could not get any scores on them so I told myself not to stall but to do some turns. I wish I made my last turn, but it is how it goes. I did not expect them to run today, but we woke up and saw the clean, perfect lineup and I am happy about it.”
Rookie Connor O’Leary (AUS) edged through his Round 4 heat against fellow CT freshman Joan Duru (FRA) and 2012 WSL Champion Joel Parkinson (AUS). In a back-and-forth battle, O’Leary secured a 13.66 two-wave total to Duru’s 13.50. Parkinson locked in a 10.83, but with a more selective approach, was not able to find the required scores.
“I am over the moon,” said O’Leary. “I was stoked to make it through that third round yesterday but now I am beyond stoked. The waves are pumping and everyone is ripping so it is great to be a part of it. It is hard to avoid the barrels, but it is more risk than reward for the tube today.”
The final heat of Round 4 saw Bede Durbidge (AUS) take the win over compatriot Stuart Kennedy (AUS) and Sebastian Zietz (HAW). In a slow heat, Durbidge tracked down two scores to get control and secure his place in the Quarterfinals. Kennedy and Zietz will do battle in elimination Round 5 when the event resumes.
“It was pumping all morning and then it shut down,” Durbidge said. “I just got those two waves and I fell off on my second wave, but that was all it took. Just happy to make it through that round and get ready for Finals day. I’ve been through some different eras and still feel like I am matching with the best. I am finding my groove and getting more confident with every heat.”
Event officials will reconvene tomorrow morning at 7:00 a.m. local time to assess the conditions and make the next call.
Surfline, official forecaster for the Outerknown Fiji Pro, are calling for:
The swell that filled in through the afternoon on Tuesday will ease through Wednesday. New, long period forerunners should start to slowly build late Wednesday, but the bulk of the SSW swell arrives and peaks on Thursday with medium to fairly solid surf, easing into Friday morning. A final SSW swell looks likely to build over the afternoon/evening on Friday. Moderate, albeit somewhat variable, ESE trades on Wednesday will give way to building and breezier SE trades Thur-Fri.
The event will be broadcast LIVE via WorldSurfLeague.com, the WSL app and on Facebook LIVE via the WSL’s Facebook page. Also check the local listings for coverage on CBS Sports Network in the U.S., Fox Sports in Australia, ESPN in Brazil, Sky NZ in New Zealand, SFR Sports in France and Portugal and as part of the EDGEsport Network.
For more information, check out WorldSurfLeague.com.
Outerknown Fiji Men’s Pro Round 4 Results:
Heat 1: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 14.27, Julian Wilson (AUS) 13.93, Ian Gouveia (BRA) 10.40
Heat 2: Michel Bourez (PYF) 15.73, Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 10.77, Italo Ferreira (BRA) 8.50
Heat 3: Connor O’Leary (AUS) 13.66, Joan Duru (FRA) 13.50, Joel Parkinson (AUS) 10.83
Heat 4: Bede Durbidge (AUS) 11.10, Stuart Kennedy (AUS) 5.54, Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 4.67
Outerknown Fiji Men’s Pro Round 5 Match-Ups:
Heat 1: Julian Wilson (AUS) vs. Italo Ferreira (BRA)
Heat 2: Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) vs. Ian Gouveia (BRA)
Heat 3: Joan Duru (FRA) vs. Sebastian Zietz (HAW)
Heat 4: Stuart Kennedy (AUS) vs. Joel Parkinson (AUS)