With building three-to-five foot (1 – 1.5 metre) waves pulsing through the primary venue of Snapper Rocks, the world’s best surfers commenced the 2016 season in fine fashion.
Italo Ferreira (BRA), 2015 Rookie of the Year, came out of the gates strong in Heat 1 againstRyan Callinan (AUS) and rookie Keanu Asing (HAW). Ferreira’s backhand was tack sharp and proved the Brazilian has only improved since his rookie season, setting his sights firmly on a WSL Title contention.
“Last year was the most amazing year of my life,” Ferreira said. “I surfed with my heroes and had a good year. I’m really excited to be back this season and hope I can do better. Very happy to win the first heat of the year.”
Michel Bourez (PYF) showcased his power surfing in Round 1 Heat 2 with a 7.00 point ride, the highest in his heat. Bourez will advance straight to Round 3 after edging out Adam Melling (AUS) and Julian Wilson (AUS).
“It is pretty hard to have the best strategy there,” said Bourez. “It is breaking all over the place and you have to be super lucky to be at the right place at the right time. That wave came out of nowhere and I was pretty lucky to be there.”
Filipe Toledo (BRA), defending Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast winner, led Round 1 Heat 3 against CT veteran Jadson Andre (BRA) and injury replacement Stuart Kennedy (AUS). The three battled wave for a wave, but Toledo pulled out a 7.83 to secure his position. Toledo will advance to Round 3, and Andre and Kennedy will battle in elimination Round 2.
“Coming here again to defend my title with really good boards and with the wind in the first round makes me more comfortable and excited for the next round,” said Toledo after the heat. “I am now trying to push harder in ways that I really need to improve. Last year I had a good feeling fighting for the title so this year I feel more comfortable. I know I have the potential to be there, too.”
Sebastian Zietz (HAW) seized his opportunity to score big with a risky layback maneuver, earning him an 8.67, but Gabriel Medina (BRA) answered back with a massive score in his last wave giving him a combined score of 16.17. Zietz fought hard to defeat Media and was just 1.37 points shy of the win. Zietz and rookie Caio Ibelli (BRA) will compete in Round 2.
“I wasn’t waiting for that one, I was just hoping for a good wave,” Medina said. “That was a tricky heat. I did not know where to sit. I was kind of lost and I am just stoked to make it through that heat.”
Mick Fanning (AUS), three-time WSL Champion, quickly put up a solid score in Heat 5, but it was trials winner Wade Carmichael (AUS) who put the pressure on by returning with an 8.93 ride. The all-Australian match-up continued to heat up as both Fanning and Carmichael exchanged high scoring rides, but it was Fanning who came out on top at his home break.
“I wasn’t tense, I was laughing and relaxed. Even paddling out in the heat I wanted to surf and get a couple of good waves and it was fun,” said Fanning winning after his heat. “I always just want to go surfing. I’m not as freaked out to be the first one in the water anymore it is more about just surfing when I want to surf and being in love with it.”
Heat 6 saw a heated battle unfold between reigning World Champion Adriano de Souza (BRA), Kolohe Andino (USA) and event wildcard Michael Wright (AUS). Andino quickly set the pace with a big 9.10 ride, but Wright and De Souza continued to fight for the lead against Andino. This heat saw a big upset with wildcard Wright edging out De Souza and the yellow jersey by 0.04 points.
“I was pretty stoked for Quiksilver to give me the wildcard this year,” said Wright. “It was a little dusty at the start, but that last one was a pretty fun and I was stoked to get a couple of good waves.”
CT veteran Jeremy Flores (FRA) battled rookie Davey Cathels (AUS) in Heat 7. Cathels put up strong scores, but it was not enough to defeat Flores’ two-wave score of 15.90. Cathels came close with 15.00, but will head to Round 2 with fellow Australian, Adrian Buchan who had a combined score of 10.74.
“It is just another day, another year in the office,” said Flores following his heat. “We are lucky to have such an incredible job, but we have to take it seriously. It is my tenth year and I feel like I still have a lot to show.”
We saw an exciting match-up in Heat 8 between eleven-time World Champion Kelly Slater (USA), Matt Wilkinson (AUS) and Conner Coffin (USA). Slater had a great start with a 7.67, but fell into third priority for a majority of the heat. The three exchanged solid rides, but it was Wilkinson who progressed through with a two-wave combined score of 17.00, beating Slater by 3.73 points and Coffin by 4.83 points.
“It started off a little bit slow and I put down a fairly good score and then I had priority,” Wilkinson said. “With Kelly and Conner out there I knew I had to use my priority ride. That one came and Kelly was paddling and I took off. I ended up with a really good one, so I was stoked.”
Wiggoly Dantas (BRA) snagged the top two scores in the heat, giving him a total of 17.26 points against Jordy Smith (ZAF), who garnered 13.43 points, and Miguel Pupo (BRA) who scored 12.47 points. Dantas expressed his confidence after the heat. “I learned a lot last year,” said Dantas. “I have been here for ten days already so I have been surfing with a lot of boards and finding the magic board.”
The last heat of Round 1 had no shortage of excitement with the battle between Australian veteran Joel Parkinson, rookie compatriot Jack Freestone (AUS), and Hawaiian John John Florence (HAW). The early high scores challenged each surfer to push their performance throughout the heat. Florence and Freestone put up a solid two-wave score, but it was not enough to beat the local CT veteran’s 8.60 opening ride.
“I definitely had a little bit of local knowledge in that one,” Parkinson said. “I felt that Jack was pretty tense in that heat. The first time on the big league and the big stage really does play a role in your head, but I was really impressed with how much he relaxed. I know in my first ever CT heat I was so much more nervous than probably what he was.”
Surfline, official forecasters for the Quiksilver and Roxy Pro Gold Coast, are calling for:
Steady trade windswell/swell to produce plenty of rideable and even fun zone surf first several days of the waiting period. Bump up in size for Sunday/Monday. Lingering swell Tuesday intoWednesday. Fading E swell late next week as steep angled short period SSE windswell mixes in.
The WSL Commissioner’s Office will reconvene tomorrow morning at 7am to assess conditions for a possible 7:35am start.
When Quiksilver Pro competition resumes, up first will be reigning WSL Champion Adriano de Souza (BRA) up against Trials winner Wade Carmichael (AUS) in Heat 1 of the elimination Round 1.
Highlights from the Quiksilver and Roxy Pro Gold Coast will be webcast LIVE atWorldSurfLeague.com.]]>