Slater Leads Opening Round Charge
Hossegor, France (Tuesday, October 1) Six-time world champion Kelly Slater(USA) today led the opening round charge in the Quiksilver Pro France. TheUS$250,000 World Championship Tournament (WCT) commenced this morning withfour heats, then increasing tide forced organizers to go on hold for anumber of hours before another eight heats were completed this afternoon.The women’s Roxy Pro France was postponed for the day.
Surf was in the 3ft (1m) range at Estagnots, with clean left and right peakconditions on offer. The tide did play a factor with consistency of setwaves at times, but the world’s top rated surfers put on a fantastic shownonetheless.
Slater, who hasn’t surfed a WCT in France since 1998, edged out anotherin-form Floridian, Damien Hobgood, as well as Darren O’Rafferty (Aus). Thelead swung throughout the heat, but it was ultimately the 30-year-old’sfinal ride, caught right under the nose of his compatriot, which earned an8.75 and sealed his place in round three. His best two-wave total of17-points equaled the highest of the day.
“The scoring was weird that heat, I thought,” began Slater afterward. “I gottotally overscored on my 8.25 and Damien actually felt like he gotoverscored on his best one. The waves weren’t offering a lot, but I just gotlucky there at the end. He was on the wrong side of the wedge and couldn’tcatch it, so it was just up to me to see if I would make the wave.
“I’ve literally been in the water two times since my last heat at Trestles,”he continued, of the USA’s recent WCT. “I really haven’t been surfing atall, so I had a free surf before my heat then and am just trying to warm upnow. Hopefully we’ll get some more surf in the coming days.”
Current #19 Dean Morrison (Aus) put on a commanding performance to defeatlocal wildcard Miky Picon (Fra) and reigning world champ CJ Hobgood (USA).The Australian collected an 8.25 and then an 8.75 at the beginning of the30-minute heat, to also post 17-points and a direct path into round three.
“I’m pretty happy with that one,” said Morrison. “I was nervous beforehandas CJ’s a great competitor and never lets up. I got really lucky with thosetwo good waves to start, so I relaxed after those and felt confident. Thehome crowd was really cheering for Miky though, and there were signs on thebeach saying ‘Allez (Go) Miky!’, so I knew it was going to be tough. I triednot to think about it much and just went out there and tried to have somefun.”
Picon, who is currently on the borderline of making it through the WorldQualifying Series (WQS) in 23rd position for a full-time position on theWCT, came on strong toward the end to pass Hobgood, but still requiredanother ride worth 8.86-points to catch Morrison. He will now contest the’losers’ second round.
“I knew it was a really hard heat as CJ and ‘Deano’ surf really well in alltypes of waves,” offered Picon. “Deano got the really good ones, but I’mstill stoked I had a good heat. I’m very happy to be in the event here athome, in front of my family, against the best surfers.”
Current ratings leader Andy Irons (Haw) held off a strong charge from NathanHedge (Aus) in their clash with replacement surfer Jonathon Gonzales (CanaryIs.). The Hawaiian, who won back-to-back WCT’s earlier in the year, heldcontrol for most of the heat, but his Australian opponent came back with an8.5 lefthander. Irons then muscled his way into the final set as Hedge alsopaddled, standing first and surfing the right-hander to secure a 7.7 forvictory.
“Any heat with ‘Hedgy’ is always pretty good as he’s so fired up all thetime,” said Irons afterward. “I knew it would come down to the wire and hehad me on my toes. Before our heat I saw a couple of good waves but we justsat there for a long time. Nothing really solid came. I had a couple ofseven’s, but he came back with an 8.5 and I luckily got an 8.0 inside of himand then a set came and I got to my feet first and did a couple of turns forthe score I needed.
“Patience is a virtue, as they say,” he continued, of showing experience bywaiting for set waves. “I’m just trying to learn from mistakes and itdefinitely paid off in that one.”
Australia’s current ratings #2 Luke Egan, #3 Michael Lowe, #4 Danny Willsand #5 Joel Parkinson, all won their respective heats. Egan, who won thelast WCT in California two weeks ago, advanced today over Rodrigo Dornelles(Brz) and his fellow finalist at Trestles Mick Campbell (Aus). The33-year-old picked off the best ride of the heat for an 8.0, after he andCampbell shared a couple of set waves in alternative directions.
“I was really lucky to get a couple in the scurry at the beginning,”reasoned Egan. “Mick and I didn’t have any agreement before the heat, but wemanaged to split two peaks, which is really cool when the waves are thisinconsistent. It’s nice to let your surfing do the talking instead of havingto hassle.”
Taylor Knox (USA) defeated 1999 world champion Mark Occhilupo (Aus) andwildcard Frederic Robin (Fra). The Californian waited patiently for hisrides, fortunately finding them and posting the scores he needed to hold offthe challenge of his opponents. Robin, in particular, had the vocal crowdlending their support.
“The French have some really good surfers and I think Fred’s probably themost underrated of them all,” said Knox of Robin. “You can’t take anyone forgranted, and I don’t think I even caught a wave until 12-minutes left in theheat. I just sat there waiting and it was frustrating, but I did get in somegood rhythm at the end. You don’t want to hassle friends out there, but youwant to be a winner at the end of the day.”
Current #42 Paulo Moura (Brz) won his first heat since Tahiti earlier thisyear, creating an upset by defeating current #6 Shea Lopez (USA) and ShaneDorian (Haw). The Brazilian locked in a 7.35 on his final wave to swing thelead from his Floridian opponent. Fellow Brazilian Neco Padaratz, currentlyin #43, also eliminated a Lopez brother in #9 Cory, as well as Lee Winkler(Aus), the following heat with a near-perfect 9.6 – the highest of the day -on his final ride.
“I’m pretty stoked as it’s been a long time since I made a heat, sinceTahiti,” said Moura. “I’ve been training a lot these days, doing soft sandrunning and trying to train my mind. I was praying to God during the heat tosend me the waves and that’s what happened in the last minute.”
Quiksilver, in association with Ocean Surf Report, has set up a Hotline thatwill inform the public about which contest site has been chosen for the day.This will be effective as of 8am every morning, on: +33-(0)-892-681-360,then press #1.
Official results of the Quiksilver Pro France round one (1st > Rnd 3; 2nd &3rd > Rnd 2)
- H1: Kalani Robb (Haw) 16.75; Luke Hitchings (Aus) 12.85; Fabio Gouveia (Brz)10.25
- H2: Paulo Moura (Brz) 14.35; Shea Lopez (USA) 13.4; Shane Dorian (Haw) 12.95
- H3: Neco Padaratz (Brz) 14.9; Cory Lopez (USA) 14.75; Lee Winkler (Aus)13.15
- H4: Joel Parkinson (Aus) 12.3; Pat O’Connell (USA) 11.1; Victor Ribas (Brz)4.75
- H5: Luke Egan (Aus) 14.25; Rodrigo Dornelles (Brz) 13.3; Michael Campbell(Aus) 11.9
- H6: Daniel Wills (Aus) 16.5; Marcelo Nunes (Brz) 16.0; Jake Paterson (Aus)15.5
- H7: Michael Lowe (Aus) 16.6; Troy Brooks (Aus) 11.85; Shane Powell (Aus)11.55
- H8: Andy Irons (Haw) 15.7; Nathan Hedge (Aus) 15.0; Jonathon Gonzales(Canary Is.) 8.85
- H9: Taylor Knox (USA) 15.75; Mark Occhilupo (Aus) 13.9; Frederic Robin (Fra)12.9
- H10: Dean Morrison (Aus) 17.0; Miky Picon (Fra) 15.3; CJ Hobgood (USA) 12.15
- H11: Kelly Slater (USA) 17.0; Damien Hobgood (USA) 16.15; Darren O’Rafferty(Aus) 13.35
- H12: Mick Fanning (Aus) 16.15; Guilherme Herdy (Brz) 13.1; Phil MacDonald(Aus) 11.65
Upcoming heats in the Quiksilver Pro France round one (1st > Rnd 3; 2nd &3rd > Rnd 2)
- H13: Taj Burrow (Aus); Renan Rocha (Brz); Paul Canning (SAfr)
- H14: Peterson Rosa (Brz); Flavio Padaratz (Brz); Russell Winter (UK)
- H15: Kieren Perrow (Aus); Greg Emslie (SAfr); Beau Emerton (Aus)
- H16: Richard Lovett (Aus); Nathan Webster (Aus); Maz Quinn (NZ)