Pumping 10-to-12 foot (3 - 3.5 metre) waves were on offer at the primary venue of Cloudbreak today as the world’s best surfers whittled the competitive field down to the final eight at the Fiji Pro.
Stop No. 5 of 11 on the 2015 Samsung Galaxy WSL Championship Tour (CT), the Fiji Pro saw a major ratings shakeup yesterday when wildcard Dane Reynolds (USA) eliminated Jeep Ratings frontrunner Adriano de Souza (BRA) in Round 3 of competition. The upsets continued today with Kai Otton (AUS) ousting No. 2 Filipe Toledo (BRA) during this morning’s Round 3 bout.
As the surf built throughout the day, so did the performances of the world’s best surfers.
Julian Wilson (AUS), current WSL No. 8, put in a blistering Round 4 performance day, threading monstrous tubes on his backhand in securing a near-perfect heat total of a 19.43 out of a possible 20 and advancing directly into the Quarterfinals over Kelly Slater (USA) and Taj Burrow (AUS).
“It was a good heat with sick waves,” Wilson said. “We all hassled for the inside at the start - Kelly and Taj got waves with turns and I was looking for more of a bigger wall that would hit the reef better. Was fortunate to get into a rhythm and find a few. Happy to be straight through to the Quarterfinals.”
Wiggolly Dantas (BRA), 2015 WSL rookie, navigated a tricky heat over rookie compatriot Italo Ferreira (BRA) and lethal wildcard Dane Reynolds (USA) to secure his spot in the Quarterfinals. With the swell building to at-times wild levels, Dantas found waves that offered scoring opportunity amidst the chaos.
“It’s getting very tricky out there,” Dantas said. “Feels like the swell is building and I think we put each other out of position a little bit. Stoked to find a couple of waves that didn’t shut down and make it into the Quarterfinals.”
Joel Parkinson (AUS), 2012 WSL Champion, has had an uncharacteristic start to his 2015 season, coming into the Fiji Pro rated 20th on the WSL Jeep Leaderboard. However, the Gold Coaster’s undeniable talent and power, as well as his wealth of experience in the South Pacific, have reignited Parkinson’s campaign. Taking on compatriots in three-time WSL Champion Mick Fanning (AUS) and Owen Wright (AUS) in Round 4, Parkinson threaded solid barrels on his backhand and tore into unmatched carves to the tune of an 18.43 out of a possible 20, including the event’s first Perfect 10, and advancement directly into the Quarterfinals.
“So good to be in Fiji with waves and surfing heats with good friends,” Parkinson said. “Staying on Namotu, they treat you like family, and it’s just great to be back. Locked into some good ones during that heat and looking forward to tomorrow.”
Jeremy Flores (FRA), the lone European on tour, put on an incredible performance to cap off Round 4, showcasing impressive commitment both within the barrel and throughout his turns to post an 18.70 out of a possible 20 and advance through to the Quarterfinals.
“It’s a beautiful day at Cloudbreak and there are some really fun waves coming through,” Flores said. “It’s the first time I’ve made the Quarters in a long while and I’m just going to keep enjoying myself and my surfing.”
The afternoon’s Round 5 action was punctuated with high drama in Brazilian rookie Italo Ferreira’s elimination of 11-time WSL Champion and four-time Fiji Pro winner Kelly Slater (USA) in the opening heat of the round. Ferreira, who eliminated Slater from the opening event of the year on the Gold Coast, was an underdog in the face of the Floridian’s supernatural rapport with Cloudbreak and decades of experience. However, in an affair that was light on opportunity, the Brazilian combined poised tube-riding with powerful carves to oust Slater from the event.
“I can’t believe it,” Ferreira said. “Pretty hard with the waves out there. So happy to make another heat. I can’t believe that I beat Kelly at Fiji. He’s the best. I’m just really happy to make another heat.”
Other Round 5 victors included Taj Burrow (AUS) over Dane Reynolds (USA), Kai Otton (AUS) over Mick Fanning (AUS) and Owen Wright (AUS) posting a Perfect 20 out of 20 en route to defeating Adam Melling (AUS). Wright’s commitment to placing himself as deep and critically as possible in the barrel was phenomenal this afternoon, netting the Australian only the seventh Perfect Heat Total in the sport’s history.
“I’m absolutely blown away by how good it is out there,” Wright said. “I never thought I’d ever get 20 points in my life, but there’s so much opportunity out there. It feels great to accomplish it. It just feels great to get those waves. There’s no better feeling.”
Event organizers will reconvene tomorrow morning at 7:30am to reassess conditions.
When competition recommences, up first will be Julian Wilson (AUS) up against Italo Ferreira (BRA) in the opening Quarterfinal heat.
Surfline, official forecasters for the WSL, are calling for:
The new SSW swell peaks this afternoon, before starting to ease on Tuesday (still solid). Expect the fading trend to continue through mid week, becoming small by Friday. Although becoming rather breezy each day, wind conditions continue to look favorable for at least the mornings through the next few days (SE’erly Trades).
WSL Perfect Heat Totals:
2015: Owen Wright (AUS) - Fiji Pro
2013: Joel Parkinson (AUS) - Oakley Pro Bali
2013: Kelly Slater (USA) - Volcom Fiji Pro
2011: Jeremy Flores (FRA) - Billabong Pro Tahiti
2008: Joel Parkinson (AUS) - Billabong Pipe Masters
2005: Kelly Slater (USA) - Billabong Pro Tahiti
1996: Shane Beschen (USA) - Billabong Pro Gold Coast*
* Best three waves.
Fiji Pro Remaining Round 3 Results:
Heat 7: Mick Fanning (AUS) 13.67 def. Alejo Muniz (BRA) 13.30
Heat 8: Joel Parkinson (AUS) def. Sebastian Zietz (HAW)
Heat 9: Owen Wright (AUS) def. Adrian Buchan (AUS)
Heat 10: Kai Otton (AUS) 14.97 def. Gabriel Medina (BRA) 13.77
Heat 11:Jeremy Flores (FRA) 10.60 def. Bede Durbidge (AUS) 4.50
Heat 12: Adam Melling (AUS) 11.66 def. Filipe Toledo (BRA) 10.97
Fiji Pro Round 4 Results:
Heat 1: Julian Wilson (AUS) 19.43, Kelly Slater (USA) 14.34, Taj Burrow (AUS) 13.83
Heat 2: Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 11.30, Dane Reynolds (USA) 10.77, Italo Ferreira (BRA) 10.67
Heat 3: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 18.93, Owen Wright (AUS) 17.26, Mick Fanning (AUS) 16.60
Heat 4: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 18.70, Kai Otton (AUS) 12.10, Adam Melling (AUS) 5.83
Fiji Pro Round 5 Results:
Heat 1: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 10.97 def. Kelly Slater (USA) 7.34
Heat 2: Taj Burrow (AUS) 15.24 def. Dane Reynolds (USA) 13.66
Heat 3: Owen Wright (AUS) 20.00 def. Adam Melling (AUS) 17.70
Heat 4: Kai Otton (AUS) 14.33 def. Mick Fanning (AUS) 11.33
Fiji Pro Quarterfinal Match-Ups:
QF 1: Julian Wilson (AUS) vs. Italo Ferreira (BRA)
QF 2: Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) vs. Taj Burrow (AUS)
QF 3: Joel Parkinson (AUS) vs. Owen Wright (AUS)
QF 4: Jeremy Flores (FRA) vs. Kai Otton (AUS)