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Quik Pro kicks off: Fans dig the Mick, JJF & Owen show

Mick Fanning © WSL/Sloane

 

 

 

Quik & Roxy Pro Gold Coast

World Surf League Men's & Women's CT Event
Snapper Rocks, Gold Coast, Australia
14 - 25 March, 2017

Fanning returns after year of semi-retirement and Owen Wright back in competition after year-long injury

Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 16 March, 2017 - The Quiksilver and Roxy Pro Gold Coast resumed today with the remaining heat of women’s Round 1, men’s Round 1, women’s Round 2, and the opening 2 heats of men’s Round 2. The competition saw the world’s best surfers take on the first event of the Australian leg in clean three-to-five foot (1 - 1.5 metre) conditions.

The WSL Champions put on a clinic today at Snapper Rocks with Round 1 heat wins by John John Florence (HAW), Gabriel Medina (BRA), Mick Fanning (AUS), Joel Parkinson (AUS), Adriano de Souza (BRA) and Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), and Round 2 victories by Tyler Wright (AUS) and Kelly Slater (USA).

Not one to be overshadowed by the impending Slater vs. Fanning Clash of the Titans heat immediately following his own Round One opener, reigning World Champion John John Florence Florence demonstrated why he is the reigning WSL Champion as he posted an excellent 16.83 two-wave score to defeat event wildcard Mikey Wright (AUS) and 2017 WSL Rookie Connor O’Leary (AUS) in Heat 5. Wright secured a strong 7.67, but was not able to lock in the near-perfect 9.16 required to overthrow Florence. O’Leary struggled to find the scores to escape the combination and will surf again in elimination Round 2.

“I feel a lot better without the pressure of winning a World Title,” Florence said. “The waves were so fun during that heat. They really allow you to open up and surf the way you want, which is sick. It looks like the waves are going to pick up more over the next few days so it could be really amazing.”


John John Florence © WSL/Sloan

 

To his credit, heat competitor Mikey Wright surfed like his trunks were on fire, and at times was the mirror reflection of his big brother, Owen, who later went on to win his own heat. Wright did what all wildcards must endeavor to do -- that is, look for punt-able ramps. He rescued himself with a 7.67 at the four-minute mark, but was undone after slipping off his full deck traction on multiple occasions.

Owen Wright made a triumphant return to Championship Tour form Thursday at the Quiksilver Pro. The Australian surfer sat out the entire 2016 season due to a career-threatening traumatic brain injury he suffered at Pipeline in 2015. It was so severe he had to learn to surf again when he returned to the water. Six months later, he's back, and with his impressive win over World Junior Champion Ethan Ewing and Hawaiian powerhouse Sebastian Zietz, it's obvious that Wright's recovery is nothing short of miraculous.


Owen Wright © WSL/Sloane

 

Medina blazed through opening heat of the year with a commanding 16.50 combined score, putting compatriot Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) and 2017 WSL Rookie Ezekiel Lau (HAW) in a difficult combination situation. The 2014 WSL Champion unleashed a variety of powerful maneuvers to set the tone of his 2017 World Title campaign, but an air on his ride led to Medina tweaking his knee. He continued to surf the heat and even posted his highest score after sustaining the injury, but sought treatment upon returning to shore. 

“We’ve checked in with Gabriel (Medina), who is icing his knee and resting,” Renato Hickel, WSL Deputy Commissioner, said. “He intends to compete in Round 3 when competition recommences."

Heat 7 witnessed a heavyweight match-up between three-time WSL Champion Fanning, 11-time WSL Champion Slater, and CT veteran Jeremy Flores (FRA). Flores held the lead for a majority of the heat, requiring the World Champions to answer back with stronger second-wave scores. With time running out, Slater attempted to combat Flores, but could not earn the required score, while Fanning waited patiently with priority. Under pressure, Fanning’s local knowledge paid off as he was able to catch a wave in the dying seconds of the heat to earn a 7.14, defeating Flores by only 0.14. 

“I was sitting out there with priority for a while, but it’s so hard in these conditions because sometimes priority’s a curse,” Fanning said. “It’s a confidence booster that I could keep my cool there at the end and that’s how I want to go the whole year. I don’t want to worry about the consequences, but want to just keep going.”


Kolohe Andino © WSL/Sloane

 

Following a year-long absence from competition after suffering a serious head injury, Owen Wright (AUS) made a stunning return to the elite tour with two excellent 8-point rides for the heat win against rookie Ethan Ewing (AUS) and Sebastian Zietz (HAW). Ewing made a big statement with his opening ride, a near-perfect 9.10, but could not find the second wave score to challenge Wright’s 16.83 combined score. 

“This is pretty emotional for me and winning today feels great,” Wright said. "It’s been a tough journey getting here, so I really enjoyed the moment of being out there. Winning my first heat back and my first heat as a dad is the best thing ever. Being a father is giving me dad energy and the buzz of life.”

Defending Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast event winner Matt Wilkinson (AUS) picked up where he left off at Snapper with a dominating performance in Heat 2 of Round 1. Wilkinson’s rivals Stuart Kennedy (AUS) and rookie Ian Gouveia (BRA) struggled to find any scores of consequence, leaving Wilkinson to take the heat with a two-wave total of 13.67.

“I’m excited to be surfing back at Snapper Rocks,” Wilkinson said. ”Last year was massive for me. Last week was the first time I have surfed Snapper since my win last year, and it feels good to be back. There is some good swell coming in the next few day and I’m hoping to get seven more heats under my belt and go all the way.” 

Current World No. 2 Jordy Smith (ZAF) opened up his 2017 World Title campaign with a win against Miguel Pupo (BRA) and wildcard Nat Young (USA) in Round 1 Heat 5. The South African fended off the Brazilian’s excellent 8.10 by a slight 0.16 lead to capture the win and advance straight to Round 3. 

“It was the first heat of the year for me, so it was a little nerve racking,” Smith said. “In the last five years I’ve been wave starved in the first heats, so I wanted to catch waves today. I was stoked the swell turned on for us this year at Snapper. There’s going to be a lot of opportunities for Round 3.”

2017 WSL Rookie Frederico Morais (PRT) was the only rookie to advance out of Round 1 after taking down World Title contender Filipe Toledo (BRA) and Adrian Buchan (AUS) in Heat 10. Filipe and Morais exchanged control of the heat, but it was the Portuguese standout who took the win with a 15.70 combined score over Toledo’s 15.10. 

“Being the only rookie who has won a heat is a great achievement for me,” Morais said. “I knew it was going to be a hard heat. The waves were pumping so I knew I just had to worry about my wave choice and focus on myself. There wasn’t much time left, so I took my last chance on the last wave and it worked. It’s going to be a big year. I have worked my whole life for this and I am going to make the most of it.” 

World Title contenders Julian Wilson (AUS) and Kolohe Andino (USA) will advance to Round 3 after defeating rookie Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA), 2016 Rookie of the Year Caio Ibelli (BRA), Jack Freestone (AUS) and Kanoa Igarashi (USA), respectively. 

The Quiksilver Pro also ran through the first two heats of elimination Round 2, which saw event wildcard Mikey Wright (AUS) upset the competition with his dispatch of top-seed Michel Bourez (PYF). Slater also punched his ticket to Round 3 after eliminating Trials winner Nat Young (USA). With Slater advancing through, Round 3 will see all nine World Champions on the CT still in the running for the event win. 

Competition kicked off with the remaining heat of women’s Round 1 of the Roxy Pro Gold Coast, which saw six-time WSL Champion and five-time Roxy Pro winner Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) steal the win from an in-form Lakey Peterson (USA) and Malia Manuel (HAW) with some last-minute heroics.

“This event is so important for a good start to the year,” Gilmore said. “A lot of people that win here go on to win the title so a good start is super important. It means a lot to make that heat at the end like that, this is my home break and I'd like to do well here. I’d love to win the contest.”
 

Author: 
Dave Prodan
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