Date: Saturday, October 4, 2014
Schedule: Round 5 (Heats 1-4), Quarterfinals 1 and 2
Conditions: 8 to 10-foot faces
Recap: Round 1
Recap: Round 2, Heats 1-9
Recap: Round 2, Heats 10-12 and Round 3, Heats 1-4
Recap: Round 3, Heats 5-12, Round 4, Heats 1-4
Stakes were high for rankings leader Gabriel Medina, for whom another heat win would put him another step closer to a World Title -- a first for both him and Brazil. But he found a formidable competitor in Josh Kerr, who opened the heat with a 7.00, the highest single-wave score of the matchup. Medina fell further behind when he blew out a fin on a frontside bottom turn and had to go in for a board change.
Once back in the lineup and looking to get in the heat, Medina went for a huge air rotation, but fell on the landing and didn't get the score. The attempt would be his last big push; the lineup shifted and his waves didn't offer much opportunity. When the horn sounded, Kerr still had the lead, and ousted the World No. 1 from the event.
Not long after his earlier crowd-pleasing performance, John John Florence warmed up with a few smaller scores, taking the lead with modest rides. But just after the 20-minute mark, he showed off his signature style: Dropping into a huge one that didn't quite fold into a tube, he threw huge carves instead, linking a big layback and an air-reverse. He earned a 9.00 and cemented a lead.
Andino found a bombing righthander toward the end, and strung together powerful turns before the wave began to soften. He earned a 6.00, but it wasn't enough to put him in the lead. Florence's momentum continued though and he took the win again, besting his childhood rival and moving on to the Semifinals.
"The crowd here is so amazing," Florence said. "They're all 100 percent surf fans, it's motivating."
After a few slow heats, Kelly Slater kicked off Round 5's final matchup with a 9.07, finding a big righthand barrel to start. The score set the bar and immediately put Taj Burrow on the defensive. The faceoff between the Tour vets was a rematch of sorts, after their tense heat at the Hurley Pro.
In contrast to Trestles though, Slater led this heat from start to finish with Burrow never finding a rhythm. Of Burrow's five scores, his highest was a 3.00, which rarely moves the needle and wouldn't on this day. Burrow was eliminated from the competition, while Slater moved into the Quarterfinals.
"The guys you have history with, it's a little more interesting, the matchups," Slater said afterwards. "With Taj, I get focused. I know I can't go out there and tactically surf against him, I actually relax."
The Brazilian battle, like the Aussie face-off before it, got off to a slow start in the rising tide. Jadson Andre stayed active though, catching as many waves as he could. Yet he struggled to find the tubes and put a string of one-pointers on his scoreline. Filipe Toledo took the opposite approach, waiting until the 15-minute mark to catch his first wave. The result, however, was similar as he dropped into a handful of barrel-free waves, filling a line with scores all below 5.00.
But Andre pressed on. He found his best two waves toward the end, including two final, backhand rides that let him showcase fluid, powerful turns on softer faces. Despite a lack of standout performances, his efforts paid off. He scratched his way through to the end to take the win and move on to the Quarterfinals.
"Not a great year for me, but it feels great to make some heats," Andre said after his win. "I'm stoked."
Both Josh Kerr and Matt Wilkinson struggled to find waves that offered any opportunity and this Aussie battle was idle for the majority of the 35 minutes. When Wilko did find a wave he earned a 5.33, which would stand as the highest score of the heat.
Kerr, meanwhile, found a three-pointer to close the gap and needed just another small score to overtake his opponent. He found it in the final moments, earning a 4.17 that tipped the scales. Wilko moved to back up his own score, but it was too late. Kerrzy took the heat, leaving his opponent unusually dejected over his exit.
"It's frustrating when he only needed such a small score," Wilkinson said of his last exchange.
The first heat of the day started in pumping surf with the kinds of barrels that the surfers had hoped for all week. Mick Fanning found the first wave of the day, but got only a quick cover-up and a minimal score. John John Florence answered back with his own tube and casually tucked in, looking very much like he was at home in Hawaii. The judges ruled an eight-pointer Florence quickly backed it up with another barrel, for a 7.00. The pressure was now on the defending World Champion.
But Florence's solid opener was ultimately the start of an all-out rout. He pulled into barrel after barrel, stacking sevens and eights and a 9.90 on his scoreline. Working to climb out of trenches, Fanning found a few tubes but none of the caliber needed to get him back in the heat.
Florence, already on his way to the Quarterfinals, caught one last barrel before the closing horn. He stood up and laid into one of his signature turns after exiting, earning a Perfect 10.
"It was amazing out there," Florence said. "It almost felt like a free surf in Mexican beachbreaks. I love getting barreled. It's my favorite thing in the world."