An action-packed day unfolded at Stop No. 7 of 11 on the 2017 World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), the Billabong Pro Tahiti. Competition ran through Rounds 2 and 3 in 6 foot (1.8 metre) surf at Teahupo’o and the stage is set for an exciting Finals day tomorrow after the field was narrowed down to 12.
Day two of the event saw 10 nine-point rides and no shortage of drama as three WSL Champions were eliminated from the draw, while the top 4 surfers on the Jeep Leaderboard remain in the competition.
Injury replacement Nat Young (USA) put the pressure on reigning WSL Champion John John Florence (HAW) early during their Round 3 match-up but his lead didn’t last. Florence dominated the final minutes of the clash with two nine-point rides for an impressive 18.70 heat total and a place in Round 4.
“That was a lot of fun,” said Florence. “It’s a pretty scary wave but the reward is just so good. The view from inside the barrel is amazing and the way it sucks you in and spits you out is pretty cool.”
Earlier in the day Young eliminated rookie Frederico Morais (PRT) in Round 2 Heat 5. Morais, who is fresh from a runner-up finish in Jeffreys Bay, is currently ranked 12th on the Jeep Leaderboard takes home the second 25th place finish of the season.
“It’s an interesting position to be in being an injury wildcard,” said Young. “I’m stoked to be here but it’s a bummer for Kelly [Slater]. I just want to make the most of the opportunities I get and I just love surfing this wave.”
Connor O’Leary (AUS) and Joan Duru (FRA) are the only rookies to remain in the draw and each caused an upset on their way to securing a Round 4 berth.
2015 event winner Jeremy Flores (FRA) was dispatched in Round 3 at the hands of 2017 WSL rookie O’Leary. Flores held the lead through much of the heat with an early 7.00, but back-to-back barrels from the pair in the finals minutes made for an exciting conclusion to the bout. O’Leary found something special and was rewarded with an excellent 9.33 to steal the heat from Flores, and eliminate him from the competition with a fifth consecutive 13th place finish.
Earlier in the day a high-scoring affair played out in Round 2 Heat 10 between Flores and Italian rookie Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA). Both surfers went into the excellent range with 9-point rides but a near-perfect 9.77 from Flores for a deep tube ride sealed his heat win and sent the rookie home in equal 25th place.
“Jeremy [Flores] is one of the best out here,” said O’Leary. “To see his Round 2 performance was amazing and to have a heat against him was great. That was really fun and I’m happy to make it through and crack Round 3. It’s such a perfect wave and I’m looking forward to having a few more heats out there.”
Duru continued his impressive run of form by eliminating 2012 WSL Champion Joel Parkinson (AUS) in Round 3 Heat 10. Parkinson took an early advantage but an excellent 9.17 from Duru changed the lead. The Frenchman backed up his score with a 7.23 and will advance on to Round 4 while Parkinson leaves in equal 13th place.
“I’m so lucky and thanks to all my friends and family I’m in a good place and so happy,” Duru said. “I got lucky that the good waves came to me and the ocean was with me today.”
Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) also looked strong in Round 3 today when he dispatched 2015 WSL Champion Adriano de Souza (BRA). The heat came down to a battle of the back-up scores and it was Dantas that came out ahead to take the win and send De Souza home.
“Adriano [de Souza] surfed pretty good so I focused on getting the best wave of the heat,” said Dantas. “I’m stoked to make the heat. I am feeling some pressure because I want to get results but I do like surfing under pressure.”
An all-out battle between Julian Wilson (AUS) and Italo Ferreira (BRA) played out in Round 3 Heat 9. The pair traded big scores throughout the heat but it was an excellent 9.13 from Wilson that clinched the heat. The Brazilian is eliminated in equal 13th place and Wilson will move on to Round 4 when competitions continues.
“You have no control over your opponents so you just have to focus on yourself and try to make good decisions,” said Wilson. “I had a poor start to that heat but I was able to shake that off and search a really good second half of the heat. It’s turned on for us which is amazing and it’s such a reward to be still in the competition. Italo [Ferreira] is such a good competitor so I knew it would be a tough heat.”
Two former event winners Mick Fanning (AUS) and Adrian Buchan (AUS) matched up in the penultimate heat of the day. The three-time WSL Champion found a bomb and earned an near-perfect 9.83 (the highest single-wave score of the event) to storm into the lead over the 2013 event winner. Buchan put himself back in contention with an 8.00 and an 8.70 and took first position. Fanning was not able to find a response and is eliminated from the event.
“I’ve got so much respect for Mick [Fanning] – he’s not just a three-time world champion but also an awesome human,” Buchan said. “He’s just the ultimate competitor and a consummate professional so to have a heat with him is always special. I feel like I’m surfing really well and making good decisions and it feels really good to make it through.”
An incredible Round 3 performance from CT veteran Bede Durbidge (AUS) wasn’t enough to earn his place in Round 4. The Australian was eliminated by 2014 WSL Champion and event winner Gabriel Medina (BRA) in Heat 4 despite the highest score of the heat, 9.73. Medina took to the air to secure a pair of seven-point rides and earned the win.
“That felt really good,” Medina said. “I felt a bit nervous because I waited so long for my first wave so I’m really happy to make it. I love to surf doing airs and the wind is tough out there so it’s hard to get the barrels. Hopefully I can keep going and get a good result.”
Top seeds Matt Wilkinson (AUS), Jordy Smith (ZAF) and Owen Wright (AUS) won through their Round 3 heats against Ethan Ewing (AUS), Kanoa Igarashi (USA) and Ian Gouveia (BRA) respectively. They each advance on to Round 4 and the battle to win the event and get one step closer to becoming the 2017 WSL Champion will continue tomorrow when competition resumes.
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, Sport TV in Portugal and the EDGEsport Network.
For more information, check out WorldSurfLeague.com
Billabong Pro Tahiti Round 2 Results:
Heat 1: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 11.83 def. Taumata Puhetini (PYF) 9.60
Heat 2: Owen Wright (AUS) 14.50 def. Aritz Aranburu (ESP) 12.10
Heat 3: Ethan Ewing (AUS) 10.06 def. Filipe Toledo (BRA) 6.56
Heat 4: Mick Fanning (AUS) 13.00 def. Josh Kerr (AUS) 8.16
Heat 5: Nat Young (USA) 10.74 def. Frederico Morais (PRT) 8.93
Heat 6: Michel Bourez (PYF) 14.97 def. Jadson Andre (BRA) 14.77
Heat 7: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 11.50 def. Miguel Pupo (BRA) 2.67
Heat 8: Kanoa Igarashi (USA) 10.53 def. Caio Ibelli (BRA) 5.60
Heat 9: Conner Coffin (USA) 12.56 def. Stu Kennedy (AUS) 7.10
Heat 10: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 18.77 def. Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 16.60
Heat 11: Bede Durbidge (AUS) 10.50 def. Jack Freestone (AUS) 7.27
Heat 12: Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 12.57 def. Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 8.03
Billabong Pro Tahiti Round 3 Results:
Heat 1: Owen Wright (AUS) 13.77 def. Ian Gouveia (BRA) 10.60
Heat 2: Connor O’Leary (AUS) def 14.33. Jeremy Flores (FRA) 13.27
Heat 3: Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 13.33 def. Adriano De Souza (BRA) 9.57
Heat 4: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 14.60 def. Bede Durbidge (AUS) 13.23
Heat 5: Kolohe Andino (USA) 12.67 def. Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 12.27
Heat 6: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 11.57 def. Ethan Ewing (AUS) 8.67
Heat 7: John John Florence (HAW) 18.70 def. Nat Young (USA) 15.23
Heat 8: Conner Coffin (USA) 13.77 def. Michel Bourez (PYF) 12.90
Heat 9: Julian Wilson (AUS) 17.46 def. Italo Ferreira (BRA) 16.54
Heat 10: Joan Duru (FRA) 16.40 def. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 14.40
Heat 11: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 16.70 def. Mick Fanning (AUS) 15.90
Heat 12: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 15.00 def. Kanoa Igarashi (USA) 2.26
Billabong Pro Tahiti Round 4 Match-Ups:
Heat 1: Owen Wright (AUS), Connor O’Leary (AUS), Wiggolly Dantas (BRA)
Heat 2: Gabriel Medina (BRA), Kolohe Andino (USA), Matt Wilkinson (AUS)
Heat 3: John John Florence (HAW), Conner Coffin (USA), Julian Wilson (AUS)
Heat 4: Joan Duru (FRA), Adrian Buchan (AUS), Jordy Smith (ZAF)