The Quiksilver Pro France, Stop No. 9 of the World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), resumed in absolutely incredible conditions to complete the men’s second and third rounds of competition. The day witnessed countless upsets with the defeats of most of the Top 10 surfers as conditions rewarded risk taking in the thumping barrels and tides played with the minds of the world’s best athletes.
A slow heat between Australians Owen Wright and Stuart Kennedy came down to the wire as both surfers struggled to find any scores above the average. That was until Wright locked into a long and deep barrel on his backhand to drop one of the highest scores of the event, a near-perfect 9.17 for the win.
“That was a bit of luck, but you watch it all morning and you know how hard it is to surf a heat with a peak that’s so random, it’s really hard to pick one spot,” Wright said. “Stu (Kennedy) and I paddled out on this right to get a couple turns out, but it got really full and was tricky so I just decided to move across to the shorey and give that a stab.”
Kolohe Andino (USA) ended Bede Durbidge (AUS)’s final French run early as the two surfers battled the shifty peaks of la graviere. The Californian took the debate to the air for his backup score and slightly edged out Durbidge for his spot into Round Four.
“Bede (Durbidge) is Mr. cool, calm, collected and we’ve had so many man-on-man heats together,” Andino said. “Two years ago we surfed against each other here in pretty much the same conditions and he handed it to me — he had like two 9s. I was really nervous in this one. Anything that came I just tried to rip it as hard as I could and I’m so happy it worked out.”
Miguel Pupo (BRA) and Adriano de Souza (BRA) paddled out when the peak really settled close to shore. While De Souza struggled to locate the open sections, Pupo had a blast, locking into two excellent barrels to post a 16.30 total and eliminate the former World Champion.
“I was surfing in Supertubos before I came here and was training on my backside barrel because I feel I have to get better on that,” Pupo said. “I was training those pumps before getting in the barrel and it kind of set me in rhythm for this event. ”
Pupo continued to impress as he led the charge in Round Four to claim the first spot in the quarterfinals.
Caio Ibelli (BRA) and Frederico Morais (PRT) took two completely different approaches in Heat 4. The Brazilian stayed on the inside threading hollow barrels while Morais tried to surf the rights out the back and opted for the rail game. As the tide filled up, the rights got fatter and while Moraisfailed to go over the average, Ibelli was building a solid scoreboard and ultimately a heat win.
“Since Bells Beach I haven’t made it out of Round Three so I’m super stoked,” Ibelli said. “Most importantly I was just trying to have fun and enjoy the moment. Just like in a freesurf, I tried to catch as many waves as possible and find the right current, the right rhythm and a barrel that I really like.”
Giant killer Marc Lacomare (FRA) continued to slay the CT’s Top 34, taking down Jeep Leaderboard No. 1 Jordy Smith (ZAF) in an epic Round Three battle. The talented French wildcard who eliminated Julian Wilson (AUS) yesterday, tubed his way into Round Four for his best-ever result in a Championship Tour event.
“It feels amazing, we have good waves this year and all my friends and family here on the beach it does not get much better than this,” Lacomareadmitted. “I think it’s an advantage to surf at home, especially for me. I’m not on the CT, not going for a world title, I’m just trying to surf well and be smart.”
“It’s France, it changes really quickly, for example the wave that we were surfing out front is pretty much non-existent anymore,” Smith stated. “I got two okay waves and kind of had a rhythm, Marc (Lacomare) sat on that little left. With the tide dropping I thought I should head out to the point of the sandbank, got a good score but it wasn’t enough.”
Lacomare further impressed as he put Caio Ibelli (BRA) and Sebastian Zietz (HAW) in a combination situation in their Round Four match-up for his spot in the quarters. His impeccable wave-selection and radical backhand attack on home turf were too much to take in for his opponents.
John John Florence (HAW) lit up the whole beach in Heat 7 with arguably one of the biggest airs this season to post a 9.73 on his second effort. The reigning World Champion capitalized on the early exits of Smith, Wilson and De Souza with an incredible display of high-performance surfing in the perfect peaks of Hossegor. He later launched into a second massive rotation, this time on his forehand to definitely shut down any hopes for rookie Ethan Ewing (AUS) to make it out of Round Three.
“It wasn’t what I planned to do out there but it just kind of happened, especially after that first left I just tried to do airs on every wave,” Florence said. “I carried out my heat the same way I would if Jordy would have made it or not, just focused on myself and having fun!”
Florence scored another near-perfect heat in Round Four with two massive airs and a 18.56 points combo to send Fanning and Parkinson into Round Five.
The combat between Mick Fanning (AUS) and hometown hero Jeremy Flores (FRA) brought tension amongst the thousands of fans who came to support their Frenchmen. Flores opened with an 8.83 in the opening minutes and applied pressure from the get go. But three-time WSL Champion Fanning did not let the situation faze him and built a comeback from scratch, ultimately dropping the winning score in the dying seconds of their match-up.
“It went flat for a long time but I felt calm, I knew the waves were going to come it was just a matter of when,” Fanning reflected. “I love surfing with Jeremy (Flores), we’ve had so many battles over the years and they’re always so intense. He can really hold his head high, he went mad!”
In the following heat, Joel Parkinson (AUS) took down Ian Gouveia (BRA) in a slightly less entertaining heat. Gabriel Medina (BRA) left no room for another Hossegor local, Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) to find his rhythm, and put together a solid effort to make his way into Round Four.
Joan Duru (FRA) joined Lacomare as the last two Frenchmen surviving Round Three at the term of an intense battle with Adrian Buchan (AUS). The heat was a relatively low-scoring affair that came down to a last second effort from Duru to steal the lead back from the Australian. Buchan had two final chances to turn the heat but fell both times and let Duru walk away with the win.
“I felt pretty bad at the start, I couldn’t get the good waves and was stuck in a rip,” Duru said. “Then I figured it out and got a 6, so I thought I was still in and getting that priority at the end I knew it was my chance. I just stayed patient and when that wave came I really didn’t want to blow it.”
Matt Wilkinson (AUS) and Nat Young (USA) wrapped up the action from Round Three with a an exciting all-goofy foot battle, eventually dominated by Young, creating yet another upset by dispatching of World No. 4 in equal 13th place.
Event officials will re-assess conditions at 8:15 a.m Saturday for a potential final day of both the Quiksilver & Roxy Pro France.
Surfline, official forecasters for the Quiksilver and Roxy Pro France, are calling for:
Medium size NW swell will ease through Friday and fade further during the first half of Saturday as favorable wind continues. An even larger swell will fill in for Sunday, building Saturday afternoon/evening and dropping on Monday. Another strong WNW swell looks increasingly likely for Tuesday before fading Wednesday, although wind conditions may be tricky.
The Quiksilver and Roxy Pro France will be webcast LIVE on WorldSurfLeague.com as well as the WSL app.