The Outerknown Fiji Pro, Stop No. 5 of the 2017 World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), saw sensational upsets today in the remaining eight heats of Round 3. After a series of lay days, the event recommenced in dramatic fashion to witness the world’s best surfers battle in the four-to-five foot (1.2 – 1.5 metre) waves at Cloudbreak.
Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA), 2017 CT Rookie, upset the competition with his win over reigning WSL Champion and current World No. 1 John John Florence (HAW) in Round 3. Fioravanti showcased a new level to his surfing with aggressive snaps for a 16.83 two-wave score (out of a possible 20).
“The waves are really fun and I just got into a good rhythm,” Fioravanti (pictured top) said. “My mom always tells me that I surf better on my backhand so I was just thinking about what my mom always says and trying to hit the lip as hard as I could, and it paid off. I felt really confident. It is a dream to surf these types of conditions at Cloudbreak with nobody else out.”
The Italian’s second ever CT win this season forces Florence to leave in 13th place, his second and worst result of 2017.
“The waves were hard, but Leo [Fioravanti] was ripping,” said Florence. “I just wasn’t getting the right ones. Wave selection is definitely important and I think that is something that I need to work on. I am starting to figure out — in these last few events — choosing the right waves. I’ve got my two throw-aways for the year so far. I really believe that things are going to get a lot better. I am learning a lot and I am excited and confident for J-Bay. I think it will be really fun.”
11-time WSL Champion Kelly Slater (USA) was eliminated by rookie Connor O’Leary (AUS) in a close battle separated by only 0.40 points. O’Leary secured a 10.74, while Slater tried to improve his 10.34. With priority in the dying minutes of the heat, Slater could not find the backup wave to combat the rookie and will exit Fiji early.
“It is always tough to win that low scoring, but I am over the moon,” said O’Leary. “I thought the energy was there at the start, but as soon as the trades came up, it went to nothing. I was glad I had two average scores to finish it off. I made a few errors on a few waves that I could have maximized my score on, but I am stoked to win.”
“There wasn’t much I could do – I had priority, I was in the spot I wanted to be and I had the biggest score of the heat,” Slater said. “I sat most of the heat waiting for a 4.00, but it’s a tricky day. You’ve seen other experienced guys that you’d expect to win out here losing. It’s been total decimation of the top seeds and it’s played into the hands of the underdogs.”
Mick Fanning (AUS), three-time WSL Champion, was eliminated from the event by an in-form Michel Bourez (PYF) in the opening heat of the day. The Round 3 Heat 4 match-up saw Fanning lead with strong backhand snaps for a 5.67, but Bourez tracked down a tube for a 7.00. The win came down to the last exchange, where Bourez landed a 6.53 over Fanning’s 5.53. Fanning will be eliminated in Equal 13th place, his second Round 3 elimination this season.
“The conditions were pretty tricky at the start of the heat,” said Bourez. “After my first wave, I knew I needed a small score just to put pressure on Mick. Mick is unbelievable. He is Mick Fanning and there is nobody else like him. It worked out well and I am glad to make it through.”
The rookie takedowns continued as World No. 2 Jordy Smith (ZAF) fell to Joan Duru (FRA) in Round 3 Heat 7. Duru opened with a near-perfect 9.20, putting early pressure on Smith. Duru solidified his win with an incredible 8.40 on his last exchange. Smith was unable to escape the combination and will be eliminated in his worst result this season.
The upsets continued through to the last heat of the day with Stuart Kennedy’s (AUS) big win over Adriano de Souza (BRA), 2015 WSL Champion and current World No. 2. Kennedy, who is in his second year on the CT, held the lead for the majority of the heat with a 14.83 combined-score. Needing a 7.51, De Souza battled until the dying seconds of the heat but fell just 0.50 points short of the requirement on his last attempt. De Souza will leave with his worst finish this year, while Kennedy advances to the next round.
2012 WSL Champion Joel Parkinson (AUS) was victorious in his matchup against fellow veteran Jeremy Flores (FRA) in Round 3 Heat 9. Flores earned the highest score of the heat, an 8.67, but it was not enough to combat the Australian’s two 7-point rides.
Bede Durbidge (AUS) and Sebastian Zietz (HAW) will also advance through to the next round after winning their heats against Kolohe Andino (USA) and Wiggolly Dantas (BRA), respectively.
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:
A number of medium size or larger swells are lining up over the next few days: one peaking Tuesday, with a second and larger swell peaking Thursday. There is even a chance to see another new swell for the final afternoon of the waiting period (Fri). Moderate to breezy ESE to SE trades prevail through the week.
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 Remaining Round 3 Results:
Heat 5: Michel Bourez (PYF) 13.53 def. Mick Fanning (AUS) 11.20
Heat 6: Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 16.83 def. John John Florence (HAW) 13.33
Heat 7: Joan Duru (FRA) 17.60 def. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 11.73
Heat 8: Connor O’Leary (AUS) 10.74 def. Kelly Slater (USA) 10.34
Heat 9: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 15.30 def. Jeremy Flores (FRA) 13.84
Heat 10: Bede Durbidge (AUS) 16.10 def. Kolohe Andino (USA) 11.90
Heat 11: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 12.93 def. Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 12.80
Heat 12: Stuart Kennedy (AUS) 14.83 def. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 14.33
Outerknown Fiji Men’s Pro Round 4 Match-Ups:
Heat 1: Ian Gouveia (BRA), Julian Wilson (AUS), Matt Wilkinson (AUS)
Heat 2: Italo Ferreira (BRA), Michel Bourez (PYF), Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA)
Heat 3: Joan Duru (FRA), Connor O’Leary (AUS), Joel Parkinson (AUS)
Heat 4: Bede Durbidge (AUS), Sebastian Zietz (HAW), Stuart Kennedy (AUS)