TAVARUA, Fiji: The Fiji Pro, Stop No. 5 of 11 on the 2014 Samsung Galaxy ASP World Championship Tour (WCT), got underway today and the world’s best surfers took to the water in three-to-five foot (1 – 1.5 metre) surf. The event ran through Round 1 at Cloudbreak with 12 surfers earning a fast track through to Round 3 while several top seeds were relegated to surf again in elimination Round 2.
Fresh from a win at Rio de Janeiro Michel Bourez (PYF) faced Brett Simpson (USA) and Filipe Toledo (BRA) in Round 1 Heat 2. Simpson took an early lead but was quickly overtaken by the Billabong Rio Pro winner, who locked in a solid 8.83. Toledo suffered a slow start, but the young Brazilian posted a 6.23 of his own. Simpson came back with an 8.43 but Bourez reclaimed first place with a fast flurry of backhand carves and floats. Bourez’s red-hot run continues as he skips Round 2 and advances directly into Round 3.
“I’m really happy to make it through that Round,” said Michel Bourez. “I just want to do well in every single event. I have two throwaway results already this season, but I don’t feel pressure. I just want to look forward and do as well as I can.”
Reigning three-time ASP World Champion Mick Fanning (AUS) stamped his authority early on during his Round 1 bout against Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) and Glenn Hall (IRL), finding the first set wave of consequence for an excellent 8.60. Patacchia, however, would not be denied and the goofy-footer secured the first barrel of the event for a 7.93 and the lead. Fanning had an opportunity in the final minutes, but Patacchia’s dissection of a late set wave for an 8.10 put the nail in the coffin for his Round 1 campaign.
“I got a pretty good barrel in that heat,” said Fredrick Patacchia. “I feel like I’m in the best physical shape I’ve been in, my surfing’s there and my competition mind is all there. I’m just going to keep the ball rolling and hopefully things turn around and I get results.”
Australians Taj Burrow, Adrian Buchan and replacement surfer Mitch Coleborn matched up in Round 1 Heat 4. Buchan got the best of an early exchange between the trio but Coleborn remained consistent, belting the lefthander at Cloudbreak with his signature forehand style for a 6.53, overtaking Buchan for first place. Burrow and Buchan battled for backup scores, but it was Coleborn who took the win to advance directly to Round 3 over the more experienced competition.
“The first Round at Cloudbreak has been good to me so far,” said Mitch Coleborn. “It’s such a fun wave and I feel at home here. I’m feeling good and I don’t think about the contest too much. I wasn’t able to make it here on the first day, but when I found out they weren’t going to run the first two days I knew it was possible to make and I did everything I could and got here on time.”
Kelly Slater (USA), reigning four-time Fiji Pro winner, started strong in his Round 1 heat against Jeremy Flores (FRA) and wildcard Isei Tokovou (FJI), connecting a series of sizzling backhand turns for a 7.17. Flores and Tokovou both posted a series of small scores, but the 11-time ASP World Champion strengthened his lead with a backhand barrel for a 7.67. The Frenchman battled back with a blistering backhand attack of his own, but the veteran’s early-round dominance combined with an excellent 8.83 proved enough for a convincing Round 1 win.
“I’m happy to not have throwaway results at this point but I don’t feel like I’ve surfed very well this year,” said Kelly Slater. “I feel good out here and right at home – I understand the wave. It’s pedal-to-the-metal time for all the guys that are up there in the World Title race, somebody has to start pulling away and making something happen.”
Brazilian superstar Gabriel Medina established an early lead over young American Kolohe Andino and Dream Tour rookie Dion Atkinson (AUS), unloading his explosive forehand repertoire on Cloudbreak for a quick 6.17 and 7.27. Both Andino and Atkinson were unable to collect any major scores, confirming Medina’s direct advancement to Round 3.
“This is an important Round because it means one less heat, so I’m stoked to make it through,” said Gabriel Medina. “I had a good result here two years ago, so I hope I can make some more heats here this year. I was pretty bummed after Rio but I went home and trained a lot and I hope I can get a good result here.”
Heat 9 provided plenty of barrel opportunities for the clash between Jordy Smith (ZAF), Miguel Pupo (BRA) and Aritz Aranburu (BRA). Smith was in vicious form packing backhand barrel after backhand barrel and combining his tubes with power carves and turn to the tune of 17.13, the highest two-wave heat total of the day. Pupo and Aranburu fought back well with barrel-to-turn combination waves of their own, but were ultimately without answers to Smith’s onslaught and will look to regroup in Round 2.
“I feel like my surfing has really been on point this year, I just haven’t had the result I wanted,” said Jordy Smith. “I’ve done everything I can and I’m just going to keep going down that road and giving it my all and I’m sure the door will open soon. The main thing is going in to each event with confidence.”
Julian Wilson (AUS) came out firing, locking in a 7.50 and 6.50 in the first 10 minutes of the heat. Opponents Bede Durbidge (AUS) and Jadson Andre (BRA) also looked sharp but, despite posting some good scores later on in the heat, were unable to catch-up to Wilson’s early lead, finishing the heat in second and third place respectively.
“It was a good heat and I knew it was going to be hard,” said Julian Wilson. “Bede (Durbidge) has been in really good form and Jadson (Andre) is a tenacious competitor and always up for a fight. I’m really happy to get through Round 1. I feel like I’m surfing well even though the results don’t look great. I’ll just keep working as hard as I can and knocking on the door of better results.”
Fiji Pro Round 1 Results:
Heat 1: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 11.90, Kai Otton (AUS) 10.16, Tiago Pires (PRT) 1.57
Heat 2: Michel Bourez (PYF) 15.83, Brett Simpson (USA) 14.76, Filipe Toledo (BRA) 11.33
Heat 3: Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 16.03, Mick Fanning (AUS) 12.83, Glenn Hall (AUS) 12.67
Heat 4: Mitch Coleborn (AUS) 12.96, Adrian Buchan (AUS) 10.23, Taj Burrow (AUS) 9.83
Heat 5: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 12.50, Mitch Crews (AUS) 9.00, Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 6.97
Heat 6: Kelly Slater (USA) 16.50, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 10.86, Isei Tokovou (FJI) 4.40
Heat 7: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 13.44, Kolohe Andino (USA) 8.27, Dion Atkinson (AUS) 7.73
Heat 8: Sebastian Zeitz (HAW) 12.07, Josh Kerr (AUS) 11.93, Alejo Muniz (BRA) 10.67
Heat 9: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 17.13, Miguel Pupo (BRA) 12.70, Alejo Muniz (BRA) 12.10
Heat 10: Owen Wright (AUS) 10.77, Nat Young (USA) 10.46, Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 10.00
Heat 11: Julian Wilson (AUS) 14.00, Bede Durbidge (AUS) 13.50, Jadson Andre (BRA) 9.73
Heat 12: John John Florence (HAW) 12.17, Travis Logie (ZAF) 11.77, C.J. Hobgood (USA) 10.54
Fiji Pro Round 2 Match-ups:
Heat 1: Taj Burrow (AUS) vs. Isei Tokovou (FJI)
Heat 2: Mick Fanning (AUS) vs. Wiggolly Dantas (BRA)
Heat 3: Josh Kerr (AUS) vs. Glenn Hall (IRL)
Heat 4: Nat Young (USA) vs. Brett Simpson (USA)
Heat 5: C.J. Hobgood (USA) vs. Tiago Pires (PRT)
Heat 6: Bede Durbidge (AUS) vs. Dion Atkinson (AUS)
Heat 7: Miguel Pupo (BRA) vs. Alejo Muniz (BRA)
Heat 8: Kolohe Andino (USA) vs. Aritz Aranburu (ESP)
Heat 9: Kai Otton (AUS) vs. Matt Wilkinson (AUS)
Heat 10: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs. Jadson Andre (BRA)
Heat 11: Adrian Buchan (AUS) vs. Travis Logie (ZAF)
Heat 12: Mitch Crews (AUS) vs. Jeremy Flores (FRA)
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