Owen Wright was bummed about his early round loss for all the right reasons. "It's just a result, but it hurts because it's a perfect lefthander, and it's pumping," he told Barton Lynch. Given the journey that Wright's been on in the past couple of years, a setback like this is pretty easy to handle. "It's okay… I'm in Fiji."
While Wright will fall down the Jeep Leaderboard as a result, his solid results from earlier in the season will keep him hanging among the lofty end of things. But it's a much different story for many of the vanquished.
This is event No. 5 of the year, which means the season is already halfway done for today's dusted. That's a tough one to swallow if you're Ethan Ewing, who has yet to advance out of a heat on the Championship Tour. His low rating only compounds his problem by putting him up against top seeds early. Today that meant facing Kelly Slater at Cloudbreak.
Slater was ripping out at Cloudbreak 10 years before Ewing was born, and though he was coming off one of his worst heats ever out there, he's never lost in Fiji in Round Two. And he still hasn't.
Ewing is certainly struggling emotionally about now. After all, last year the kid couldn't lose. This year he can't get a break. But he hasn't lost a single believer in his talent. His biggest issue isn't his surfing, it's his ability to shake off losses the way Owen just did. Unfortunately, that's something that comes with age and experience.
"He's an incredible surfer," Slater said of Ewing. "He just hasn't been able to get on a roll yet."
Rookie Leo Fioravanti has been in a similar boat. The Italian made a huge splash in 2016 surfing as an injury replacement, including a 5th at Margaret River. But this year, his first as a member if the CT, has been rough. He got a little reprieve Monday by getting his first win of the season. He took a big scalp too, defeating Ace Buchan, who's always a Fiji favorite.
Like Ewing, Fioravanti is paying the price for his low seed. His next match is John John Florence.
Ezekiel Lau's loss to Stu Kennedy, meanwhile, felt like an upset, but we'll have to check with our stats crew to know for sure. On the one hand Zeke is still a rookie, and Stu is in his second year. On the other hand, Zeke's been on a bit of a tear, and he's way ahead of Kennedy on the Jeep Leaderboard. Losing 10.74 to 9.10 is tough to take at Cloudbreak, and you could tell as Zeke splashed the water.
The final upset of the day came in the last heat, with Italo Ferreira eliminating defending champion Gabriel Medina in what was ultimately the best showdown of the day. Ferreira, who's just back from injury, led most of the way by locking into tube after tube. With five minutes remaining, both surfers still needed good backup scores. Medina got his final shot at the buzzer, and he went to town on it… but the judges split on the decision, giving Italo the nod.
It was another painful loss for Medina, but seconds after hearing the call he pointed over to Italo, sitting on the back of a ski, and gave him a huge thumbs up of congratulations. It was pure class.
It wasn't all hard knocks today. While it's sad to see surfers go out early there were some incredible performances that softened the sting a bit. Seabass turned in one of his most inspiring performances of the year in his Round Two match. His backhand tuberiding was phenomenal, earning him 18.43 points, which was the highest score of the day.
Jeremy Flores was another impressive standout. While he nabbed a couple of nice tubes, he won on the strength of his ferocious backhand hacks in some very meaty pockets. Flores is due for a breakout moment, and this is as likely a place to see it happen as any.
Julian Wilson and Matt Wilkinson are both looking razor sharp. Wilson's been charging through meaty barrels on his backhand. He earned an early trip to Round Four by defeating Frederico Morais. Wilkinson, meanwhile, is looking very much in rhythm. He dominated his Round Three heat over Miguel Pupo late Tuesday afternoon, looking loose, limber and a special kind of free.
The rest of Round Three will feature some great matches when competition resumes, including Mick Fanning against Michel Bourez, and Joel Parkinson against Jeremy Flores.
Heat 5: Mick Fanning vs. Michel Bourez
Heat 6: John John Florence vs. Leonardo Fioravanti
Heat 7: Jordy Smith vs. Joan Duru
Heat 8: Kelly Slater vs. Connor O'Leary
Heat 9: Joel Parkinson vs. Jeremy Flores
Heat 10: Kolohe Andino vs. Bede Durbidge
Heat 11: Sebastian Zietz vs. Wiggolly Dantas
Heat 12: Adriano de Souza vs. Stu Kennedy
The next call is at 7:30 a.m.Tuesday, local time (Monday in the US, Europe and Brazil).