The first stop of the 2017 World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), the Quiksilver and Roxy Pro Gold Coast, continued today in three-to-five foot (1 – 1.5 metre) conditions at Snapper Rocks. The Quiksilver Pro saw big names drop out of the event as competition ran through elimination Round 2 and the first seven heats of Round 3, while the women went all-out in non-elimination Round 3 to secure a place in the Quarterfinals of the Roxy Pro.
2016 WSL Champion Tyler Wright (AUS) will continue her hunt for back-to-back event wins after defeating Lakey Peterson (USA) and Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) in Round 3 Heat 2. Wright unleashed powerful rail-carves to earn a near-perfect 9.00 and 7.93. Peterson challenged the Jeep Frontrunner with an excellent 9.00 and 7.00, but fell just 0.93 points short of the win. Wright will advance straight to the Quarterfinals, while Peterson and Van Dijk battle to avoid elimination in Round 4.
“The conditions are really good out there, and I had to be super critical when catching waves,” Wright said. “I was pretty much looking for perfection. I didn’t get that from my 7s, but then I got that 9, and it wasn’t anything special. It was just simple, clean and concise surfing. Before the Quarterfinals, I really just need to reassess the conditions. The plan is always pretty similar, which is basically prioritizing what I need to work on, and when I get up on the wave to do what I know I’m capable of.”
Six-time WSL Champion Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) met three-time WSL Champion Carissa Moore (HAW) and 2017 CT Rookie Bronte Macaulay (AUS) in Round 3 Heat 4. The superheat witnessed Gilmore fire on her opening ride with a double-barrel for a near-perfect 9.17. Moore fought back with an 8.17, but Gilmore found a solid ride to earn a 7.37 and the lead. Needing an 8.38 in the dying seconds of the heat, Moore pulled off the requirement by 0.20 for an excellent 8.53 and a place in the Quarterfinals.
“I just went into that wave thinking that I’ve got nothing to lose,” said Moore. “I knew that last wave was my last opportunity of the heat and I gave it everything I had. I’m so stoked with the outcome. It’s always so tough when you’re competitor opens up with a high score, especially when that person is Stephanie Gilmore. I wasn’t too nervous when the scores were coming in. I knew I surfed my best and Steph surfed her best.”
2016 WSL Rookie of the Year Keely Andrew (AUS) shook up the competition with a big win over World Title contenders Courtney Conlogue (USA) and Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS). Andrew earned her Quarterfinal berth, her best result on the Gold Coast, with a 14.77 combined score, edging out Fitzgibbons by only 0.23 and Conlogue by 1.24. Conlogue and Fitzgibbons will battle in Round 4 to secure a solid start to their seasons.
“I might need to ask the judges for another heat because the waves are unreal,” Andrew said. “Being in the company of Courtney [Conlogue] and Sally [Fitzgibbons] was pretty special and coming out on top was even better. Getting that win will definitely mean a lot for me and my confidence going forward even though I had a bit of a slow start in those first few rounds. I’ve noticed my best attribute is speed and I just need to combine that with the power. I think that combination will mean my surfing will flow better and the judges will reward those factors.”
The opening heat of Round 3 saw a close battle between Johanne Defay (FRA), Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW) and Coco Ho (HAW). All three competitors exchanged control as each posted excellent-range scores, including a near-perfect 9.83 from Ho. Current World No. 5 Defay earned yet another buzzer-beater win with an excellent 8.70 to supplement her 8.50 back-up score. Although Ho and Weston-Webb showcased incredible surfing, they will be relegated to elimination Round 4.
“It was a very tough heat because Tatiana [Weston-Webb] and Coco [Ho] had great scores,” said Defay. “It fired me up knowing Coco dropped that huge 9-point ride. I went out there and focused on the quality of my maneuvres rather than the quantity. I’ve been working on developing my surfing. It is coming along and is starting show.”
The Quiksilver Pro kicked off the day with big eliminations in Round 2, along the first seven heats of Round 3 following the women’s event. The World Champions continued to reign supreme with Round 3 wins from John John Florence (HAW), Adriano de Souza (BRA) and Joel Parkinson (AUS).
In Heat 6, Florence was quick to post a 7.57, but it was wildcard Mikey Wright (AUS) who took control with an excellent 8.50. Florence threw out multiple attempts to combat Wright, but struggled to find critical 6.61 score needed. Without priority, Florence snuck into a solid wave to showcase his powerful snaps and technical barrel riding for a 7.90 to advance him to the next round.
“Mikey Wright is such a gnarly competitor especially in waves like these,” Florence said. “I just heard everyone screaming after his wave and thought, ‘Oh no, what did he do?’ That wave I got was smaller, which is why Mikey didn’t take it knowing there was time left. It had a nice long wall, so I got to surf the whole way through and had a few barrels. It was a pretty nerve-racking heat. I am stoked to get through that.”
“Obviously John John [Florence] is amazing so it was always going to be tough,” Wright said. “It was pretty cool having a heat with him in such pumping waves. I was good to get that one at the start, but unfortunately I couldn’t find a second. This has me fired up to get busy on the QS and qualify next year, and if not next year, I will keep going until I do.”
2015 WSL Champion De Souza had his work cut out for him when he came up against Snapper standout Stuart Kennedy (AUS) in Heat 2 of Round 3. Kennedy looked in good touch in earlier rounds but was unable to fire in the his Round 3 match-up. De Souza took the heat win with a two wave total of 14.93 and progresses into Round 4.
“Snapper is such a special place for me,” De Souza said. “After I won the title at Narrabeen, I came here to surf so I have a good relationship it and so many memories. Coming up against Stuart Kennedy was crazy. He is an animal in competition and it was a great battle. The Brazilian crowd that follows me here are amazing support. I’m very lucky.”
2012 World Champion Parkinson used his intimate knowledge of the Snapper line-up to take out his Round 3 match up with Miguel Pupo (BRA). Pupo’s back-hand was on point, but it was Parkinson’s smooth arcs and long tube rides that earned him the winning total of 17.24.
“Round 3 can sometimes be a stumbling block for me, but I came out of the gates well,” Parkinson said. “I played the heat as I saw it. After the weird rain, things started flowing. Snapper and I have a mutual relationship. I definitely love surfing here and it’s proved to love me back. Going into Round 4, I feel the pressure is off and I just want to win my heats.”
Defending event winner Matt Wilkinson (AUS) unleashed his lethal backhand snaps to earn a 15.10 combined score and eliminate CT veteran Jeremy Flores (FRA). Wilkinson kicked off the heat with a strong 7.17 and secured his win on his last wave with a 7.93. Flores, who previously knocked out Adrian Buchan (AUS) in Round 2, will leave the Quiksilver Pro will end with a 13th place finish.
“Starting with a higher score sets you up for the rest of the heat,” Wilkinson said. “Before the event, I thought I was going to absolutely blow it and I was pretty wound up. All the pressure fell off when I went out there. It’s good fun to surf this wave with no one out there. Making it past the third round is already a great result, but I’m not done.”
Round 3 Heat 5 saw an all-Brazilian battle between Italo Ferreira (BRA) and Caio Ibelli (BRA). Ferreira wasted no time to put a near-perfect 9.77 on the board, but needed to post a competitive backup score to fend off Ibelli, whose deep tube ride put him back in the game with a 7.50. Despite beating the buzzer by a microsecond, Ibelli was not able to meet the requirement and will be eliminated from the contest. Ibelli previously dispatched rookie Joan Duru (FRA) in Round 2 Heat 8.
Rookie Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) will not advance as he was eliminated by Ferreira in Round 2 Heat 7. Ferreira blazed through the heat with a Perfect 10, his career-first on the CT, and a solid 7.83 to put the Italian charger in a combination situation, forcing him to turn in two new scores. Fioravanti was not able to answer back and will finish his first event of his rookie season with a 25th place finish.
“I got a few really good waves to start of the heat and I just really tried to do my best and improve with each wave,” said Ferreira. “That 10 is probably the best wave of my life and definitely helps my confidence. It’s fun to mix it up and try new things in heats and it’s awesome when that leads to a perfect 10 in a CT heat.”
2016 Quiksilver Pro runner-up Kolohe Andino (USA) will move through to the next round after defeating Jadson Andre (BRA) in Round 3 Heat 1. Andre will walk away with a 13th place finish.
“I am stoked to make it through that heat as Jadson [Andre] is a fiery competitor,” Andino said. “The swell started to die down in the women’s heats, so it was pretty slow out there. I knew I had to pick the waves with a wall. Although the swell is dropping, it’s still perfect.”
The day also witnessed the members of the rookie class bounce back after yesterday’s Round 1 losses with big wins from Ezekiel Lau (HAW), Ian Gouveia (BRA), and Connor O’Leary (AUS).
Despite being eliminated by Current World No. 2 Jordy Smith (ZAF) in Round 3 Heat 7, Lau showcased impressive performances today with his Perfect 10 in Round 3 and massive elimination of 2017 World Title contender Filipe Toledo (BRA) in the opening heat Round 2. Toledo, who was a favorite to win this event after his victory in 2015, will leave the competition with an Equal 25th place finish.
“Zeke [Ezekiel Lau] is such an incredible competitor, one of the strongest on tour,” Smith said. “To be honest those heats are exactly why we do this tour. In the arena going neck and neck, wave for wave. That for me is the pinnacle. I guarantee any other heat [for Zeke] and he would have won. That’s exactly why we train physically and mentally. I want to dig deep, gain momentum, get the tail and start swiveling.”
“It feels so great to get my first CT heat win,” Lau said after defeating Toledo. “I was a little nervous at the end, but those are the moments I live for. The first thing going through my head was the question of whether I should I have taken the wave that Filipe [Toledo] was on or if should I have left it. Jack [Freestone] was paddling out for his heat after us and told me he could have flung an aerial, but there was nothing I could do except get a better wave than him.”
Event organizers will reconvene tomorrow at 7:00 a.m. local time to assess the conditions and make the next call.
Surfline, official forecast for the Quiksilver and Roxy Pro, are calling for:
E trade windswell/swell holds in the head/overhead range. AM light S to calm winds. Easterly breezes settling in through midday but should stay pretty light. Cloudy with showers likely. Winds may vary at times around passing local weather features.
The interaction between high pressure over New Zealand and a trough east of the Gold Coast has set up the start of a prolonged run of trade windswell/swell that will continue through early next week. Local winds look good into Saturday but may vary at times around passing local weather features. Watching winds in the longer range. Trend to ENE to NE winds expected for Sunday/Monday.