Following an opening weekend dedicated to women’s action and three consecutive lay days, the Quiksilver Pro France launched in epic conditions at La Graviere. A new swell pushed clean offshore waves in the six-to-eight foot range (1.8 – 2.4 metre) for the men’s first round and eight heats of the second.
The opening two heats of Stop No. 9 of the men’s World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT) got off to a slow start as the lineup was still settling from a windy afternoon yesterday. Top seeds Adriano de Souza (BRA) and Owen Wright (AUS) suffered Round Two relegations at the hands of Stuart Kennedy (AUS) and Nat Young (USA), respectively.
“I was feeling a bit tired this morning but I’m so happy to finally win a Round One heat,” Kennedy said. “I haven’t won a three-man heat in a CT since Trestles last year, so it feels good to finally put it together.”
“It definitely feels good to skip Round Two, that thing is always deadly,” Young said. “It’s always good to have a heat when the waves are fun. It’s tough to come up against the higher seeds in Round Three, too, whether it’s John (Florence) or Jordy (Smith) or whoever that is at every event, but right now I have no pressure so I’ll just go out there and do my thing.”
World No. 4 Matt Wilkinson (AUS) was the first top seed to click into gear, taking his backhand vertical attack to the clean Graviere rights to post two good scores and advance straight into Round Three. Aussie compatriot Josh Kerr (AUS) narrowly missed the landing of a couple of aerial maneuvers that could have turned the heat but in the end, the slightly safer approach of Wilkinson won the heat.
“It was so fun out there, the tide came in quickly and I knew it was going to move in and become a bit chunkier,” Wilkinson said. “That first 7 was kind of exactly what I was looking for. It’s good to surf waves that have a bit of power, you just pick a line and push as hard as you can. I’m excited coming into this leg. I love surfing here and in Portugal when the forecast is good. If I just keep winning heats and find myself at the two end of these two events I’m definitely going to be back up there for Pipe.”
Caio Ibelli (BRA) and Ethan Ewing (AUS) teamed up in Heat 4 to relegate one more top seed to Round Two in Julian Wilson (AUS). Ibelli was the first surfer to find a good hollow section on the lefts to score a deep barrel for a near-excellent score. But, it was rookie Ewing and an inspired performance on the rights that won him his first Round One win this season. Ewing let loose on a beautiful set wave and put together a combination of three major carves for an 8.40, the biggest score of the day at that point.
“It’s been hard on the CT with waves that I thought were good and scores that weren’t,” Ewing explained. “So I’ll take it when it comes my way. I’m putting less pressure on myself coming into the back half of the year, just trying to have fun and show what I can do.”
Italo Ferreira (BRA) started his Round One heat the best possible way, launching into a massive backhand rotation in the Graviere shorebreak to post a near-perfect 9.50 in the opening minutes. But when facing the reigning WSL Champion John John Florence (HAW), one big score is never going to be enough, and the Hawaiian went to the air as well to post a couple of big numbers and take the win over Ferreira and defending event champion Keanu Asing (HAW).
“I didn’t see his wave, but I heard everyone freaking out and I knew it was a big score, he’s always going to do something massive especially in those conditions,” Florence said. “I was starting to get my composure back towards the end of that heat and got a couple waves.”
World No. 1
(ZAF) put on a power-surfing clinic on his forehand in the following heat, dominating a Round One battle with talented Frenchman and event wildcard Marc Lacomare (FRA) as well as CT sophomore Kanoa Igarashi (USA). Smith’s flawless approach on the overhead sets won him a 16.10 heat total for a spot into Round Three.
“It’s got a lot of power out there I’m kind of psyched on the conditions, it’s so buttery it’s really nice when you get that open face you can really lay down some tracks,” Smith said. “I never take a three-man heat lightly — I always try my best to skip those. My boards are feeling really good. It’s kind of the usual that I normally ride and when there’s a bit more power in the waves, my boards seem to love it so I’m stoked!”
Local hero Joan Duru (FRA) galvanized the massive crowds enjoying a picture-perfect day in Southwest France in Heat 7. Duru found two absolute bombs in the opening four minutes of his match-up with Filipe Toledo (BRA) and Miguel Pupo (BRA) and built an incredible 18-point total to combo his two opponents. Duru’s backhand barrel skills came at the perfect time when La Graviere started pulsing deep sections and his punctuation marks under the lip finished the job. A last barrel from Duru in the dying seconds of the heat continued to keep the fans on their toes even if the score was not a substantial one.
“I got a little hometown luck, paddling back from the other side of the peak and getting a wave straight to me,” Duru admitted. “And then paddling back out getting that barrel again. I’m really stoked. I’m lucky Maud (Le Car) was here to run and bring mea board when I broke mine. My main focus is to re-qualify. The rookie of the year race is interesting, but I want to solidify my spot on tour first then see what happens.”
Gabriel Medina (BRA) took on two Hossegor locals as well with Jeremy Flores (FRA) and Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) in Heat 8. The Brazilian, a two-time winner at the Quiksilver Pro France, engaged in a back-and-forth battle for the lead with Flores while the Italian rookie struggled a little bit more to find waves. Ultimately, it was a backhand combination of radical turns from Medina that won him the heat.
“I love this kind of beach break,” Medina said. “You have so many options to surf. Today was a bit tricky, but I’m happy with the two waves I surfed. Both Leo (Fioravanti) and Jeremy (Flores) spend more time here than anyone on tour, so it was a tough heat but I have spent a bit of time here too and it’s one of the best places for me to get a result.”
Joel Parkinson (AUS) managed to walk through a firework-less heat against Jack Freestone (AUS) and Michel Bourez (PYF) and logically claimed a ticket for Round Three, linking together a couple of nice waves with his signature stylish approach on the clean rights.
Sebastian Zietz (HAW) put a hurdle on Connor O’Leary’s (AUS) Rookie of the Year race, pushing the talented Australian and Jadson Andre (BRA) into the elimination Round Two. Zietz’ marine sense was put to the test and the Hawaiian threaded the long rights perfectly, even finding a deep barrel section close to shore for his highest score of 8.17.
“That’s probably the easiest way to get scores, go straight through the barrel,” Zietz said. “I was kind of lost out there, with a couple giant sets and some white water all the way across. It was kind of a low-scoring heat but I found a lucky little tube and I’m glad I stayed with that one.”
Ian Gouveia (BRA) upset three-time WSL Champion and multiple event winner in France, Mick Fanning (AUS), as well as Frederico Morais (PRT) in their Round One match-up. Adrian Buchan (AUS) took out the final ticket for Round Three, sending Kolohe Andino (USA) and Ezekiel Lau (HAW) to the second round.
Round Two of the Quiksilver Pro France launched with a massive upset when talented wildcard Marc Lacomare (FRA) defeated current World No. 3 Julian Wilson (AUS). A rather slow heat saw both surfers exchange scores in the six points range. A final set came right before the buzzer to give Lacomare and Wilson a final opportunity. The Frenchman started on a big left and performed three turns to post a 7.27 and eliminate Wilson.
“World No. 1 or 2 or 3 it doesn’t really matter, all those surfers surf sogood,” Lacomare said. “I just tried to take advantage of this amazing opportunity to surf at home, and tried to have fun and be smart. Every heat I make against those guys is definitely a confidence boost, it will probably help with the last few events of the QS.”
Wilson, who won the Billabong Pro Tahiti and in August, struggled to back up the result with a deceiving 9th in Trestles and his worst finish all year with a 25th in France. With only two events left after France, the Australian’s World Title hopes could be seriously jeopardized if his direct competition,Florence and Smith, go a long way at La Graviere.
“It was a tough heat, it’s shifty out there and a long way out to sea,” Wilson explained. “I didn’t finish two waves that would have probably changed the result of that heat. I’m disappointed that I didn’t get the win, this is my poorest result this year but it’s the way it goes. The World Title is my biggest motivation and that was a bit of a dagger in my hopes for that this year. But, I’ve won those next two events before and I’ll look forward to them.”
The next upset came from Miguel Pupo (BRA), who eliminated fellow Brazilian athlete and recent winner in Trestles Filipe Toledo (BRA). Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) continued the trend of upsets in Round Two by eliminating current Rookie of the Year leader Connor O’Leary (AUS).
Frederico Morais (PRT), Kolohe Andino (USA) and Mick Fanning (AUS) took the final three heats out to move into Round Three and avoid an equal 25th finish in Hossegor.
Quiksilver Pro France Round 1 Results:
Heat 1: Stuart Kennedy (AUS) 12.00, Adriano de Souza (BRA) 10.77, Conner Coffin (USA) 6.33
Heat 2: Nat Young (USA) 11.00, Bede Durbidge (AUS) 9.17, Owen Wright (AUS) 7.20
Heat 3: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 13.77, Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 12.50, Josh Kerr (AUS) 10.76
Heat 4: Ethan Ewing (AUS) 15.57, Caio Ibelli (BRA) 15.33, Julian Wilson (AUS) 9.13
Heat 5: John John Florence (HAW) 15.67, Italo Ferreira (BRA) 15.60, Keanu Asing (HAW) 5.10
Heat 6: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 16.10, Marc Lacomare (FRA) 12.70, Kanoa Igarashi (USA) 10.47
Heat 7: Joan Duru (FRA) 18.00, Filipe Toledo (BRA) 11.43, Miguel Pupo (BRA) 9.14
Heat 8: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 15.86, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 15.27, Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 13.26
Heat 9: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 13.20, Jack Freestone (AUS) 11.96, Michel Bourez (PYF) 11.40
Heat 10: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 12.74, Jadson Andre (BRA) 10.74, Connor O’Leary (AUS) 10.57
Heat 11: Ian Gouveia (BRA) 15.57, Mick Fanning (AUS) 15.27, Frederico Morais (PRT) 12.16
Heat 12: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 15.60, Kolohe Andino (USA) 10.63, Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 10.60
Quiksilver Pro France Round 2 Results:
Heat 1: Marc Lacomare (FRA) 13.27 def. Julian Wilson (AUS) 12.23
Heat 2: Owen Wright (AUS) 13.60 def. Keanu Asing (HAW) 11.17
Heat 3: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 15.97 def. Josh Kerr (AUS) 13.00
Heat 4: Miguel Pupo (BRA) 12.27 def. Filipe Toledo (BRA) 8.50
Heat 5: Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 14.60 def. Connor O’Leary (AUS) 11.87
Heat 6: Frederico Morais (PRT) 15.26 def. Jack Freestone (AUS) 11.37
Heat 7: Kolohe Andino (USA) 13.50 def. Jadson Andre (BRA) 12.60
Heat 8: Mick Fanning (AUS) 13.20 def. Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 12.84
Remaining Quiksilver Pro France Round 2 Match-Ups:
Heat 9: Michel Bourez (PYF) vs. Kanoa Igarashi (USA)
Heat 10: Jeremy Flores (FRA) vs. Italo Ferreira (BRA)
Heat 11: Conner Coffin (USA) vs.Caio Ibelli (BRA)
Heat 12: Bede Durbidge (AUS) vs. Wiggolly Dantas (BRA)
Roxy Pro France Semifinal Match-Ups:
SF 1: Carissa Moore (HAW) vs. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS)
SF 2: Lakey Peterson (USA) vs. Tyler Wright (AUS)