Things could get very interesting at the top of the world surf rankings, after the top three all failed to make it through to the third round of the Rip Curl Pro in Portugal.
World no.1 John John Florence, Gabriel Medina and Australia’s Matt Wilkinson all lost their opening heats and will have to battle it out in round two if they are to keep their world title hopes alive.
Florence’s loss was one of the bigger shocks of the day, with the Hawaiian superstar falling victim to Brazil’s Jadson Andre in heat 6.
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Andre is currently sitting in 25th place, just outside the requalification bubble, and needs a strong result in Portugal to move up the rankings.
“I definitely don’t want to be in that position every year but sometimes you don’t have a choice, I had a couple of injuries at the beginning of the year that really brought me down,” Andre said.
“Miguel (Pupo) and myself are the only two guys I think who have been in that situation every year for a while so we may have a little bit of an advantage. I love Portugal, I always do good here and I really hope I can win a couple more heats.”
Wilkinson was beaten by Miguel Pupo, who scored an impressive 8.17 for a combination of a clean barrel ride and a solid forehand turn.
“When I was walking in the competitors area I saw Wilko look at the waves down there so I sort of knew he would sit down the beach but Ryan (Callinan) and I had waves after waves and luckily I got the one with the double-up,” Pupo stated.
“I feel a lot of pressure, but I’ve been in this position before and I managed to requalify. This is a wave that I love very much but I’ve never done well so this could be the year maybe. I’m trying not to rush things I think that’s what I have to do and that’s how I surfed that last heat, I waited for the waves and tried to feel the ocean.”
Medina just couldn’t find a solid score in his match up with lethal wildcard Frederico Morais and rookie Conner Coffin.
There was some better news for world No. 4Jordy Smith, who beat Jeremy Flores and rookie Kanoa Igarashi to advance straight into Round 3.
“Conditions are pretty good out there and it’s just a matter of finding the right waves, it’s really low tide and pretty much dry off your first turn,” Smith said.
“Luckily enough I found a couple lefts. I found I’d have a few opportunities on a little right bank, but here you just have to adapt on the fly.”
11-time World Champion Kelly Slater was in sizlzing form, locking in the day’s maneuver, a massive forehand rotation for an excellent 9 points to take the lead.
Hen later found some tube time on a lefthander to back up his main wave with a 6.83 and put Aussie duo Matt Banting and Stuart Kennedy in a combination situation and into Round 2.
“I was trying to find a peak down to the South I thought I saw a couple rights, I pulled in a couple of barrels on my first three waves but I realized this wasn’t going to work unless it was a straight peak and no wall,” Slater reflected.
“Then I saw that right and knew there wasn’t much in it except for an air so I took as much speed as I could and hit it as late as I could and that one stuck. I took a few days for myself in France and feel relaxed now.”
Josh Kerr bested Slater to claim the day’s equal highest combined heat total of 15.90 out of a possible 20 for a Round 3 berth.
Top seeds Adriano De Souza, Joel Parkinson and Italo Ferreira all won their opening round encounters with solid scores to make their way into the third round.