Before the first heat of Round 2 even got started, Championship Tour (CT) surfers were taking off on throaty barrels at The Box, warming up for another day of heavy conditions.
From the very start, fireworks flew as trials winner Jay Davies (AUS) dropped into bomb after bomb, unfazed by his opponent, the reigning World Champion Gabriel Medina (BRA). Both surfers managed midrange scores in the first half of the heat, but Davies blew open the contest when he drove through a tube with two sections for an 8.50. Medina took off with a minute remaining but the barrel eluded him, leading to the worst finish for the Champ in 14 events.
"I watched Gabriel win the World Title last year and I was pumped to get the chance to surf against him at one of the best waves in the world," Davies said afterward. "I get to surf here all the time so hopefully that will help me get through some more rounds."
Adriano de Souza (BRA) added to the morning's thrills in the next heat, air-dropping from a towering lip and escaping ahead an explosion of whitewater for a 9.80 on his first wave. His backup gave him a solid two-wave total of 13.90, enough to triumph over fellow Brazilian Alejo Muniz and advance.
"I tried to be as deep as I could on that 9.80," said De Souza. "I had to be smart the whole time and when that wave popped up I was in the right place at the right time. I'm so happy to make that thing, it was gnarly and the wave was three-times overhead. I put things on the line and I made the barrel. I'm not completely happy because I was competing against a friend and Alejo came so far to compete at this event and do his best and I would have like to see him do well."
Of course not everyone was fortunate enough to escape the howling closeouts at The Box. Some competitors got the guillotine while others were swallowed up whole for another day of mega-wipeouts.
But amid the carnage, another hero emerged. Rookie Ricardo Christie (NZL), who struggled in the first two events of the season, had Filipe Toledo (BRA) on the ropes early in their sudden-death matchup. The two engaged in a see-saw battle, trading short but heavy tube rides for similar scores. Toledo, currently tied for first on the CT rankings, held a slight lead going into the last 10 minutes but Christie drove through a narrow tube to overtake the lead. Toledo found a Hail Mary wave, but it came up fractions of a point short, handing the rookie his first CT heat win.
"I feel like I've just won the competition," said Christie. "It's been a tough start to the year for me and it's pretty sick to have an event out here in waves like this. I had a bit of trouble yesterday. I didn't know where to sit but I've kind of figured it out a bit more today. I watched John John (Florence) and Josh Kerr this morning taking off and thought that's what I have to do."
As the tide dropped, the scores rose. Owen Wright (AUS) and Dusty Payne (USA) traded excellent-range scores (8.00 or above) in Heat 6. Then the Aussie, seemingly at a disadvantage as a goofyfooter at a righthand break, dropped into a double-overhead barrel (the height was triple-overhead for most of the men but Wright's a big guy) and earned the second 10-pointer of the season.
"I've never surfed out here before and this was my first time in the lineup," said Wright. "The set came so I just went. After my 10 I remember going, 'Give me more!' I just love it and I love waves like this. When that wave came through I managed to get in the right spot and it let me in perfectly. The wave did the rest from there."
With more and more of the reef revealing itself as the day wore on, competition picked up at Main Break with an all-Brazilian, all-rookie matchup featuring Italo Ferreira and Wiggolly Dantas. Both surfers took full advantage of the looming sets, notching scores in the seven-point range. Ultimately, the lower-ranked Ferreira would claim another win for the blue jerseys. Matt Banting (AUS), the fifth rookie to hit the water on Day 2, was arguably the most daring surfer at Main Break, but his giant air-drops ended up in massive hold-downs rather than successful scores and he was eliminated.
The best performance at Main Break came from seasoned veteran Kai Otton (AUS). Otton logged an excellent 8.33 on a long left and coupled it with a more vertical attack for an 8.50. His heat total was the second highest of the day, the highest for heats held at Main Break so far.