Date: Friday, September 26, 2014
Schedule: Round 1 (Heats 1-12)
Conditions: Waist-high waves with head-plus sets at Hossegor
The final heat of the day was an all-Aussie face-off in crumbling waves. Josh Kerr took the early lead, pulling an air reverse amid multiple hacks for a 4.50.
Adam Melling and Owen Wright earned solid, midrange scores as well, with Wright moving into the lead at the halfway point. He went for a rotation on his next wave but wobbled on the landing. Kerr answered back, getting airborne himself. Kerr was able to stick the landing and ride out smoothly for a 7.90. Melling attacked a righthander next, throwing spray, wrapping turns and making the most of it. It was a smaller wave, though, and his effort didn't net him the total he needed.
Results: Kerr, 15.23 vs. Melling, 12.00 vs. Wright, 10.43
Fresh off his win at Lower Trestles, Jordy Smith came in hot, scoring a solid seven-pointer that started his scoreline in earnest. Bede Durbidge was also strong out of the gate, hacking up rights and lefts for solid midrange numbers.
Mitch Crews was slower to find his way, earning small scores for most of the heat. Toward the end, though, he found a better wave for a seven-pointer -- but it wasn't enough to move the needle. He was still trailing at the heat's end, while Smith had kept a slight edge over Durbidge and took the win.
Results: Smith, 12.43 vs. Durbidge, 12.00 vs. Crews, 11.14
Ace Buchan caught the first wave of the heat on his backhand, earning a 7.33 with clean turns that paid off. He quickly backed it up with another seven-pointer, leaving his opponents in combination situations before they'd even found their feet. After a warmup wave, Alejo Muniz answered back with a strong performance, including a rail-grab and some tail drifts.
Nat Young took longer to get his scoreline in shape but eventually managed an air-reverse on his backhand, earning a seven of his own. Still, neither he nor Muniz could top Buchan's scores. The Aussie advanced, while Young and Muniz were sent to Round 2.
"I knew I didn't need to change anything this year," said Buchan. "I just needed to work hard. I feel like I've got my mojo back, I've got my groove. France always feels like a breath of fresh air."
Results: Buchan, 14.60 vs. Muniz, 13.84 vs. Young, 12.06
Kolohe Andino opened the heat with a solid air and layback to earn a 6.33. Dion Atkinson was next, taking off on a solid righthander with a bottom turn, floater and strong vertical hacks as he briefly took the lead.
But Miguel Pupo soon surpassed them both. After falling on his first ride, he found a set wave next and took off on his backhand for bigger turns, a bigger floater, and a longer series of maneuvers. The performance earned him a 7.83 and put him in the lead.
Pupofollowed up with another seven-pointer and kept the lead through to the end. Andino, like many of the other progressive surfers in Round 1, didn't get the scores he needed despite imaginative moves above the lip.
"It's been an amazing four years," Pupo said afterward. "[Brazilians on Tour] are a big family. Luckily I'm in this too, and hopefully I can keep going for a few years. "
Results: Pupo, 15.16 vs. Atkinson, 14.03 vs. Andino, 10.90
Given their respective street cred for big airs and progressive moves, it seemed that Heat 8's showdown would be between John John Florence and Julian Wilson. Together, they gave a workshop on new-school surfing, complete with air reverses, alley-oops, tail-slides and rail-grabs.
Instead, Florence's maneuvers weren't always complete, affecting his scoreline. He secured an 8.83 with one big air, but unlike his recent performances at Trestles and Teahupo'o, he wasn't able to follow it up.
It became a battle, then, between Jadson Andre, who broke out with powerful, vertical snaps for solid scores, and Wilson, who was able to translate his raw talent into eight-point rides. While Andre worked perfect turns, Wilson's combination of clean turns connected with an arsenal of airs, grabs, and floaters proved to be unstoppable.
"Every event's a new opportunity," Wilson said. "I'm as hungry as I've ever been. I guess everybody learns their lessons. I've had it pretty easy up until this year. It's been a learning curve for me. It's been a frustrating year ... I'm here to turn my year around this week."
Results: Wilson, 16.77 vs. Andre, 14.00 vs. Florence, 12.73
Adriano De Souza and C.J. Hobgood led the heat, each with a six-pointer, that let them ditch their initial scores and lay the foundation for bigger points. The two were neck-and-neck throughout the battle, with midrange scores and smaller numbers that didn't affect their positions.
De Souza made a clear move to the front of the pack, though, when he powered down a righthander, connecting classic carves to earn a 9.03. Hobgood never caught up, while Aritz Aranburu was seemingly on the sidelines for the duration and had a pair of four-pointers for his highest two waves. Despite his prowess in heavy surf, he never found his rhythm and was sent to Round 2. Hobgood couldn't better his two-wave total either, and placed second while De Souza advanced.
"Every single heat I try to go 100 percent, but this heat I was so nervous because C.J. has got a lot of experience," De Souza said afterward. "But that [nine-point] wave gave me a lot of confidence. I hope to keep the same focus in the next heat."
Results: De Souza, 15.90 vs. Hobgood, 13.76 vs. Aranburu, 8.43
Perhaps the most highly anticipated heat of the morning pitted wildcard and former WCT surfer Dane Reynolds against current No. 1 Gabriel Medina and Portuguese power master Tiago Pires.
Pires got started quickly, netting the first number in his scoreline with good wave selection and solid carves. Medina followed, also snagging a keeper score on his first wave. In what is becoming the standard storyline, he seemed steely to start, the early exit at Trestles already long forgotten.
Conversely, Reynolds's first two waves were more warmup than race, netting just throwaway scores. His third wave, however, saw him start to hit his stride. When the judges' scores dropped, Reynolds was back on track, needing only to find a solid backup.
On the next set wave, Pires stayed below the lip on righthander, but still pulled off a series of precise turns to better his bottom score. Reynolds was able to improve his second score as well, belting three turns on a similar wave. But Medina held the lead thanks to a backup seven-pointer.
Results: Medina, 15.17 vs. Reynolds, 14.56 vs. Pires, 13.43
Matt Wilkinson and wildcard Matt Banting owned the opening exchanges of Heat 5, with Wilko taking an early lead before the up-and-comer quickly took over. Slater was slower to find his rhythm and spent the first half of the heat trailing his opponents.
On what became a heat party wave, Slater pulled off a huge air reverse but backed off for Wilkinson who had priority. Despite the quick exit, he earned a 9.00, reminding the judges just what he's capable of. Still, it would be the only perfectly executed boost for the 11-time World Champ. He tallied a handful of middling scores. Wilkinson took the win, leaving Slater and Banting to battle again in Round 2.
Results: Wilkinson, 14.67 vs. Slater, 14.50 vs. vs. Banting, 11.50
Joel Parkinson set the bar for Heat 4 with a ride that featured his signature wrapping turns, topped off with a smooth aerial. Raoni Monteiro made the next statement with a strong righthand ride that put him in the second spot.
Then, with more than 12 minutes off the clock, Kai Otton finally made a move, taking off on a long right. Otton's first wave, however, was also his last. The set he was likely hoping for never materialized, so neither did the solid backup score Otton needed.
Parkinson, on the other hand, showed off an air game that many might say is unusual for the former World Champion and Tour vet. It gave him the lead, which he held until the buzzer sounded.
"It's almost like you surf a heat in a couple of stages because it changes so much," Parko said afterward. "It felt like it didn't break for the last 12 minutes."
Results: Parkinson, 15.50 vs. Monteiro, 10.83 vs. Otton, 5.17
As reigning ASP World Champ and defending event champ at the Quiksilver Pro, Mick Fanning had the most to protect Friday morning at Hossegor. But as a four-time winner in France, he had the most expertise and took an early lead to prove it.
But Fanning's heat opponents wouldn't go down easily. Jeremy Flores broke out his frontside power, pulling his signature grab-rail reverse on one wave. On another, he pulled a Gumby-like layback to solidify his scoreline. In the final five minutes, Fanning brought out his own air game with an air-reverse. Toledo was next with a big boost, but didn't land it. Flores's approach worked: He won the heat and earned a direct advance into Round 3.
"Even though I've had a terrible year, I've had so much support from Europe, especially France," said Flores. "So coming here is more motivation. I want to give back all the support I get."
Results: Flores, 16.73 vs. Fanning, 13.00 vs. Toledo, 12.94
The second heat of the morning was shaping up to reveal a fault line between Michel Bourez's traditional power-surfing and some new-school tactics from Sebastian Zietz and Brett Simpson. Bourez attacked the lefts and the rights with equal aggression, stabbing the lips and driving down the line.
Zietz and Simpson pulled multiple frontside airs and air-reverses but with inconsistent success, cutting into their scoring potential. Toward the end, Bourez showed off his own skills above the lip, sticking the landing on a solid air and riding out cleanly. He won the heat, relegating his opponents to Round 2.
"In France the bank changes the whole time because of the tide difference," said Bourez. "So it's hard to know what will happen with the heat, but it's good practice."
Results: Bourez, 16.33 vs. Zietz, 11.80 vs. Simpson, 9.93
The first heat of the Quik Pro France featured a battle between goofy-footers Freddy Patacchia Jr. and Travis Logie, whose exchanges took center stage for the first 10 minutes. Both came charging out of the gate, using speed and power to attack a series of lefthanders. Logie's efforts earned him an 8.17, putting him in the lead.
Taj Burrow found his wave next, throwing a big tailslide for the finish, but despite his high wave count, Logie and Patacchia maintained control of the scoreboard. Then, in a shocking reversal, Burrow's longest ride earned him an 8.13 and won him the heat.
"I"m going to have a coffee now that I've earned one," Burrow said. "I'll try to avoid the croissants and baguettes and maybe play some tennis."
Results: Burrow, 15.16 vs. Logie, 14.97 vs. Patacchia Jr., 14.10