Supertubos delivered major upsets and high drama today as current Tour frontrunners Gabriel Medina (BRA) and 11-time ASP World Champion Kelly Slater (USA) were eliminated from the Moche Rip Curl Pro Portugal by Brett Simpson (USA) and Aritz Aranburu (ESP) respectively in Round 3. The Brazilian’s early exit ends his chances of claiming an historic world surfing crown in Portugal, effectively pushing the title race to the final event of the year in Hawaii.
The penultimate stop on the 2014 Samsung Galaxy ASP World Championship Tour ran through elimination Round 2 and ten heats of Round 3 today in five-to-eight foot barreling waves. In addition to Medina and Slater’s eliminations, current ASP World No. 4 Joel Parkinson (AUS) was also knocked out of the competition in the third round at the hands Adam Melling (AUS), ending the 2012 ASP World Champion’s run at a second title this season.
Huntington Beach’s Simpson took the surprise win over the Medina by less than a point, with a final score of 12.50 to Medina’s 12.06 (both out of a possible 20.00). With just minutes remaining on the clock, Medina had the opportunity to overtake Simpson, but left the water after his final wave before the time had run down, thinking he had the score for the win. Simpson’s victory marks only the second time this year that the American has made it beyond Round 2 and could deliver crucial points in his hunt for requalification.
“For me, after having a pretty bad year, this is a nice heat to win,” said Simpson. “I’m stoked and really happy. I always wanted to surf a lot of heats out here and now that’s finally started happening.”
“I thought I had the score on my last wave, that’s why I came in, but it wasn’t enough,” said Medina. “I’m pretty sad with this result, but I got happier when Kelly (Slater) lost. I was ready to win the Title here, but now I’m focused on Hawaii. I’m happy that I’m still in the Title Race and I know it doesn’t depend the other title contenders, it depends on me. I don’t know yet what I need to do, but I will prepare and train and be ready.”
Heat 7 of Round 3 witnessed another shock defeat when Aranburu eliminated Slater, who will leave Portugal with his second 13th place finish of the year. Aranburu opened his account with confidence, leading the current World No. 2 with 10 minutes off the clock courtesy of two clean barrel rides for a 12.00 heat total. Slater was left hunting a seven-point ride and was unable to get in rhythm with the unruly barrels or find the scores he needed. While Slater couldn’t capitalize on Medina’s loss in Peniche, he remains in contention to claim his 12th World Title in Hawaii, and will look to regroup before moving into one of his favorite events on the WCT schedule.
“It’s so hard to compete against Kelly (Slater), he’s the best of all time,” Aranburu said. “I always take it as an opportunity and this time it worked out. I’m so stoked right now. I think both of us had a lot of pressure, him for the World Title and me for the requalification, and it was such an important heat. I’ve really enjoyed this year on Tour and I’m taking it heat-by-heat and hoping to make a good result.”
“It’s hard to pick the right waves out here,” said Slater. “I knew Aritz (Aranburu) was a tough guy to draw, he went out there yesterday when no one else went out and he got an eight-foot bomb and got barreled all the way across the beach. He is dangerous in barrels and I didn’t underestimate him at all. The wave he got was the wave of the heat and it would have been mine if I hadn’t chosen the way I did. This is probably one of my most frustrating Title Races ever because I keep feeling that I have the opportunity and each time I keep dropping the ball.”
John John Florence (HAW) delivered the performance of the day in his Round 3 heat against Dion Atkinson (AUS), building momentum from his earlier win against wildcard Nic Von Rupp (PRT). Florence scored the day’s highest two-wave heat total (18.77) and the first perfect 10 of the event after he air-dropped into a bomb and slid under the thick lip to get spat out further down the sand-bank.
“I’ve been nervous all day for some reason,” said Florence. “These last couple of days I’ve been surfing a lot, the waves have been so much fun and yesterday was my birthday so we surfed all day long. That 10 was really cool. I was paddling into it telling myself to not fall on the drop, I got up and in the end it was a round and perfect wave and I was super stoked.”
Florence has had phenomenal momentum in recent events, finishing 3rd in Tahiti, Runner-Up at Trestles and claiming victory in France. The young Hawaiian is mathematically in the title hunt for this year’s crown and today’s surprise eliminations of Medina and Slater help his cause.
Adam Melling (AUS) was given a free pass into Round 3 following the unfortunate withdrawal of C.J. Hobgood (USA), who suffered a foot injury in a free surf this morning. With a deep cut spreading from heel to toe Hobgood was forced to pull out of the event before his Round 2 match-up.
“I’ve been through this stuff before so I know I’m in God’s hands, I know I’ll be fine” Hobgood reflected. “It’s not even a question if I can surf, I like to think I can endure some pain and make things happen but this can’t be done. It’s a cut from the top to the bottom and you could fit you whole hand in there.”
Melling went on to eliminate Parkinson in the opening heat of Round 3, ending his hopes of a second World Title. Melling capitalized early with an average score and kept trying to build his lead, while the former World Champion scoured the lineup in the hunt for a high seven. Melling secured the upset with another good righthander and Parkinson leaves with an uncharacteristic 25th place, his first of the season.
“I was pretty happy to get through Round 3,” said Melling. “It was a bummer for C.J. Hobgood, it sucks getting injured so that’s really bad and unfortunate for him. It’s in to a no-loser round next, so I can just go for it. Hopefully we get some really good waves, and it looks like we’re going to, and we can get some good barrels.”
“I’m excited to see if Gabriel (Medina) will be the next World Champion,” Parkinson said. “For him, what he could do for Brazil and surfing in his country, it would just be amazing. Brazilians are so passionate about surfing and it would be awesome to see Gabriel take it. He is probably the most talented surfer I’ve ever seen since Kelly (Slater) and he deserves to be World Champ.”
Current ASP World No. 3 Mick Fanning (AUS) remains in the competition after defeating wildcard Jacob Willcox (AUS) in Round 2. An in-form Fanning wasted no time and found a clean barrel on his forehand to post an 8.50 and take the lead. The reigning three-time ASP World Champion backed it up with a near-perfect 9.43 and the win sees him move on to the third round where he will face Alejo Muniz (BRA) when competition resumes. Willcox will look to reset and focus before the ASP World Junior Championships next week in Portugal.
“I’m pretty excited to compete in these conditions this morning,” said Fanning. “I got down here and it was still so dark so I couldn’t see anything. I just threw my wetsuit on and went out and when I got out there I saw some crazy ones, it was pretty exciting. I had to come in before my heat, regroup and go back out there, and I’m stoked that I got a couple of good waves.”
Event organizers will reconvene tomorrow morning to assess conditions.
Moche Rip Curl Pro Portugal Round 2 Results (1st to Round 3, 2nd finishes equal 25th):
Heat 1: Mick Fanning (AUS) 17.93 def. Jacob Willcox (AUS) 7.43
Heat 2: John John Florence (HAW) 11.67 def. Nic Von Rupp (PRT) 9.66
Heat 3: Michel Bourez (PYF) 5.80 def. Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 5.27
Heat 4: Kolohe Andino (USA) 10.77 def. Jeremy Flores (FRA) 8.83
Heat 5: Brett Simpson (USA) 13.87 def. Nat Young (USA) 13.43
Heat 6: Bede Durbidge (AUS) 8.74 def. Travis Logie (ZAF) 2.67
Heat 7: Aritz Aranburu (ESP) 9.17 def. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 1.70
Heat 8: Alejo Muniz (BRA) 8.23 def. Julian Wilson (AUS) 7.83
Heat 9: Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 9.33 def. Mitch Crews (AUS) 5.87
Heat 10: Adam Melling (AUS) advances to Round 3, C.J. Hobgood (USA) injured
Heat 11: Dion Atkinson (AUS) 13.20 def. Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 11.00
Heat 12: Kai Otton (AUS) 12.50 def. Tiago Pires (PRT) 6.90
Moche Rip Curl Pro Portugal Round 3 Results (1st to Round 4, 2nd finishes equal 13th):
Heat 1: Adam Melling (AUS) 11.66 def. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 7.93
Heat 2: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 15.83 def. Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 8.83
Heat 3: John John Florence (HAW) 18.77 def. Dion Atkinson (AUS) 13.27
Heat 4: Adriano De Souza (BRA) 11.07 def. Jadson Andre (BRA) 6.67
Heat 5: Bede Durbidge (AUS) 10.90 def. Owen Wright (AUS) 2.83
Heat 6: Brett Simpson (USA) 12.50 def. Gabriel Medina (BRA) 12.06
Heat 7: Aritz Aranburu (ESP) 12.00 def. Kelly Slater (USA) 6.30
Heat 8: Josh Kerr (AUS) 13.27 def. Miguel Pupo (BRA) 13.07
Heat 9: Michel Bourez (PYF) 15.10 def. Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 11.50
Heat 10: Kai Otton (AUS) 18.20 def. Taj Burrow (AUS) 6.00
Upcoming Moche Rip Curl Pro Portugal Round 3 Match-Ups (1st to Round 4, 2nd finishes equal 13th):
Heat 11: Kolohe Andino (USA) vs. Filipe Toledo (BRA)
Heat 12: Mick Fanning (AUS) vs. Alejo Muniz (BRA)
Moche Rip Curl Pro Portugal Round 4 Match-Ups (1st to Quarterfinals, 2nd and 3rd to Round 5):
Heat 1: Adam Melling (AUS), Jordy Smith (ZAF), John John Florence (HAW)
Heat 2: Adriano De Souza (BRA), Bede Durbidge (AUS), Brett Simpson (USA)
Heat 3: Aritz Aranburu (ESP), Josh Kerr (AUS), Michel Bourez (PYF)
Heat 4: Kai Otton (AUS), TBD, TBD