An exciting opening day at North Point kicked off the second stop on the World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro. For the first time in WSL history, the world’s best surfers battled at the famed righthand reef-point located about 10 miles north of Margaret River in four-to-six foot (1.5 – 2 metre) conditions.
Reigning event winner Sebastian Zietz (HAW) set the bar at the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro with the event’s first Perfect 10. After a slow start to his match up with CT rookie Ethan Ewing (AUS) and Brazilian dynamo Filipe Toledo (BRA), Zeitz found the sort of wave North Point is known for, a long open draining tube that allowed him an exit. Zeitz cruises into Round 3, while Ewing and Toledo will battle to avoid elimination in Round 2.
“That wave was mental, just so long, and I didn’t think I was going to make it,” Zeitz said. “I knew it would be a half-decent barrel, but not that good. It’s always good to get through your first heat and earn the day off, but especially when you do it with a tube like that. I’m so stoked.”
The opening heat of Round 1 witnessed 11-time WSL Champion Kelly Slater (USA) take the win against three-time WSL Champion Mick Fanning (AUS) and rookie Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA). Slater charged into North Point barrels to claim the heat and tally a win against the Italian charger, who beat Slater at this event last year. Fanning and Fioravanti will surf again in Round 2, while Slater advances to Round 3.
“That was a really strange heat,” Slater said. “There were some solid six foot sets coming through, even the odd eight footer, but it was so inconsistent. We seemed to be out of position the whole time. We all had such low scores that the heat was anyones’s until the last minute. It was cool to meet Mick [Fanning] in an early heat and get one up on him and Leo [Leonardo Fioravanti]. Surfing here in a contest is really cool. It’s a great wave, which is rare to score, so the fact they set up here overnight is great for the competition.”
2017 CT Rookie Ian Gouveia (BRA) made as splash at North Point today with his victory over current Jeep Ratings Leader Owen Wright (AUS) and Connor O’Leary (AUS) in Heat 7. Gouveia showcased his backhand barrel technique to earn the first excellent score of the day, an 8.00 (out of a possible 10). Gouveia, who is currently ranked 13th on the Jeep Leaderboard, will advance straight to Round 3, while Wright and O’Leary are relegated to elimination Round 2.
“That was a really dreamy heat for me,” Gouveia said. “My favourite thing to do in surfing is ride backhand barrels, so having North Point with two other guys out is awesome. All of the Brazilians on tour feed off of each other and when I saw Jesse [Mendes] win, I was so stoked and just wanted to go out and get barreled.”
Event wildcard Jesse Mendes (BRA) upset the competition as he took down 2014 WSL Champion Gabriel Medina (BRA) and CT veteran Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) in Heat 5. The all-Brazilian match-up saw Mendes hold the lead for the entire heat, creating space for himself with a great wave selection and solid tube rides. Medina fired back to close the gap to a 0.01-point difference, but Mendes continued his rhythm through to his Round 1 win.
“I knew it was going to be a tough heat,” Mendes said. “My heat actually had a lot of waves and I was in the right spot. I had been surfing here all morning, so I kind of knew where to sit and kept my strategy, and it worked out. It feels awesome. I am so blessed and thankful for God. It is a beautiful day and the waves are pumping.”
Frederico Morais (PRT) and wildcard Jacob Willcox (AUS). Florence found his rhythm early in the heat with an authoritative 7.17 and 6.50. Willcox, who gained entry into the event after winning the trials, tried to battle back against Florence, but could not capitalize on his attempts. Morais will look to bounce back out of elimination Round 2 to maintain his run at this event.
“It’s really hard today because of the swell direction,” Florence said. “When you look out to sea, it always looks like there are waves coming but nothing eventuated, which is kind of frustrating. I learned a lot last year and am definitely applying new strategies to my heat surfing, which seems to be working. Overall, it was a slow heat but they were fun when they came.”
Caio Ibelli (BRA) continued the trend of Brazilian upsets today as he took down 2012 WSL Champion Joel Parkinson (AUS) and Jadson Andre (BRA) in Round 1 Heat 8. Ibelli earned a Quarterfinal finish at last year’s event and is on track to best his previous result.
2017 World Title contender Jordy Smith (ZAF) was quick to fire off two 5-point rides against Kanoa Igarashi (USA) and injury replacement Nat Young (USA). Smith continued to move through with a barrel followed by a massive air attempt, but Young challenged Smith with a solid 6.67. Under pressure, Smith charged back with a 7.83 to lock his place in Round 3.
“I knew that last one was going to be a good wave,” Smith said. “I wanted to be deep, but obviously when you have the rashie on you do not want to be too deep because you’ve got to make it count. Sure enough, I thought about it too much and got myself a little deep in the beginning, but luckily I got set up for the barrel on the inside. I was stoked when I came out of that one.”
Jeremy Flores (FRA), Kolohe Andino (USA), Jack Freestone (AUS), Michel Bourez (PYF) and Julian Wilson (AUS) also earned their tickets to skip Round 2 and advance directly to Round 3 after winning their match-ups today.
Event organizers will reconvene at 6:30 a.m. local time to reassess the conditions and make the next call.
Due to the extremely limited capacity at North Point and The Box, in-person press will not be tenable at these venues. An end of day press release and images will complement the VNR and live access to surfer interviews is via the WSL broadcast on WorldSurfLeague.com.
Surfline, official forecast for the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro, are calling for:
Solid SSW swell will trend down through the day on Thursday. A smaller, but still strong, SSW swell looks likely for Friday afternoon and Saturday before fading into early next week. Favorable wind also looks likely, especially in the mornings, for the next several days. Beyond that, there is greater uncertainty on conditions for next week. While at least medium size swells are possible, local wind may also deteriorate.
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.
Drug Aware Margaret River Pro Men’s Round 1 Results:
Heat 1:Kelly Slater (USA) 8.07, Mick Fanning (AUS) 6.67, Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 1.00
Heat 2: Kolohe Andino (USA) 8.77, Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 7.00, Stuart Kennedy (AUS) 1.20
Heat 3: Jack Freestone (AUS) 6.77, Miguel Pupo (BRA) 3.17, Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 3.10
Heat 4: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 13.76, Nat Young (USA) 12.00, Kanoa Igarashi (USA) 1.77
Heat 5: Jesse Mendes (BRA) 11.07, Gabriel Medina (BRA) 7.26, Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 5.30
Heat 6: John John Florence (HAW) 13.67, Jacob Willcox (AUS) 4.40, Frederico Morais (PRT) 3.40
Heat 7: Ian Gouveia (BRA) 12.50, Connor O’Leary (AUS) 12.40, Owen Wright (AUS) 8.70
Heat 8: Caio Ibelli (BRA) 9.16, Joel Parkinson (AUS) 8.70, Jadson Andre (BRA) 4.80
Heat 9: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 12.60, Adriano de Souza (BRA) 10.50, Adrian Buchan (AUS) 6.24
Heat 10: Michel Bourez (PYF) 10.40, Joan Duru (FRA) 4.50, Conner Coffin (USA) 2.56
Heat 11: Julian WIlson (AUS) 4.90, Bede Durbidge (AUS) 3.33, Josh Kerr (AUS) 0.00
Heat 12: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 14.83, Ethan Ewing (AUS) 5.17, Filipe Toledo (BRA) 1.77
Drug Aware Margaret River Pro Men’s Round 1 Match-Ups:
Heat 1:Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. Jacob Willcox (AUS)
Heat 2: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) vs. Nat Young (USA)
Heat 3: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Ezekiel Lau (HAW)
Heat 4: Joel Parkinson (AUS) vs. Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA)
Heat 5: Adriano de Souza (BRA) vs. Jadson Andre (BRA)
Heat 6: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs. Joan Duru (FRA)
Heat 7: Josh Kerr (AUS) vs. Bede Durbidge (AUS)
Heat 8: Conner Coffin (USA) vs. Ethan Ewing (AUS)
Heat 9: Adrian Buchan (AUS) vs. Frederico Morais (PRT)
Heat 10: Connor O’Leary (AUS) vs. Wiggolly Dantas (BRA)
Heat 11: Mick Fanning (AUS) vs. Kanoa Igarashi (USA)
Heat 12: Stuart Kennedy (AUS) vs. Miguel Pupo (BRA)
Drug Aware Margaret River Pro Women’s Round 1 Match-Ups:
Heat 1:Johanne Defay (FRA), Malia Manuel (HAW), Bronte Macaulay (AUS)
Heat 2: Courtney Conlogue (USA), Sage Erickson (USA), Coco Ho (HAW)
Heat 3: Tyler Wright (AUS), Keely Andrew (AUS), Laura Macaulay (AUS)
Heat 4: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), Nikki Van DIjk (AUS), Bianca Buitendag (ZAF)
Heat 5: Carissa Moore (HAW), Lakey Peterson (USA), Pauline Ado (FRA)
Heat 6: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW), Silvana Lima (BRA)