Clean five foot (1.5 metre) waves graced the banks at La Graviere today as the Quiksilver Pro France completed Rounds 2 and 3 of competition.
Event No. 8 of 11 on the 2011 ASP World Title season, the Quiksilver Pro France rampaged through 12 heats of competition today that saw a number of upsets as well as impressive performances by the event's top seeds. Kelly Slater (USA), 39, reigning 10-time ASP World Champion, posted a convincing win over wildcard Ramzi Boukhiam (MAR), 17, in Round 3 of competition. The iconic Floridian was all business for his midday bout, closely analyzing the conditions and posting the highest heat total of the day, a 16.90 out of a possible 20, for an impressive display of backhand surfing. “I was nervous before the heat because there have been a few that have been slow and guys haven't been getting waves,” Slater said. “I started loosening up there at the end. With the tide changing, I was somewhat confident that the lefts would begin offering better scoring opportunities and that's where I got my two best waves.”
The past three events have seen the historic exchange between Slater and young Australian Owen Wright (AUS), 21. The two have made the last three, consecutive Finals (an ASP first) and have ignited one of the greatest ASP World Title races in recent years.
“I've always known Owen (Wright) to be building up and building up,” Slater said. “By the way people talk, I'm stoked to still be standing. These young guys are incredible. The stuff that Dane (Reynolds), Jordy (Smith), Julian (Wilson) and Owen do is amazing. When I was younger, I was always looking up to the older guys and now I'm looking to the younger guys to see what kind of lines they're taking.”
Wright wasted no time in the final heat of the day, smashing a 7.00 and an 8.17 in the opening minutes to dispatch of Tiago Pires (PRT), 31, and advance through to Round 4, setting up another thrilling chapter in the hunt for the 2011 ASP World Title.
Michel Bourez (PYF), 25, into his third season amongst the world's elite, dominated the morning righthanders with unmatched power on his forehand. The powerful Tahitian posted a 13.76 heat total in his Round 3 victory over Kieren Perrow (AUS), 34.
“The waves are very fun out there today,” Bourez said. “The bank is good and there are some really rippable rights coming through. I have a great board at the moment and I'm feeling strong. I've been doing a lot of stretching and just focusing on surfing better.”
Current No. 10 on the ASP World Title rankings, Bourez has had an impressive run this season, but has yet to crack Round 5 of an elite tour event – an oversight he hopes to remedy at the Quiksilver Pro France.
“Last year I finished 11th and this year my goal was to finish Top 10,” Bourez said. “I've had a pretty good year so far and my results are going pretty well right now. Hopefully I'm able to reach my goal by the end of the year.”
Bourez will face Taylor Knox (USA), 40, and Jeremy Flores (FRA), 23, in Round 4 of competition.
Jordy Smith (ZAF), 23, is back competing in his first event since a rib injury sidelined him in Tahiti in August. Today's Round 3 bout against Dane Reynolds (USA), 26, was one of the most anticipated of the events and the two progressive surfing stalwarts didn't disappoint. Smith opened up strong with two solid waves on his forehand and was able to stave off a late charge from Reynolds.
“There were a few waves out there but the tide got a little bit high so it was inconsistent,” Smith said. “I'm pretty stoked right now. There are some pretty good ramps and I think Dane (Reynolds) found one in the heat. I just tried to find some good waves and put in some good scores early. It was pretty relaxed out there, we've been surfing together all week so it was just another surf for us.”
Smith was sitting at No. 2 on the ASP World Title rankings prior to injury and is hesitant to commit to chasing the ASP World Title in 2011.
“A miracle would have to happen for me to get back in the race,” Smith said. “I'm not looking at the World Title right now as I've missed two events. Kelly (Slater) has a good chance at winning it at the moment. Owen (Wright) is right there too. The rest of us are all just looking to get back in the game.”
Gabriel Medina (BRA), 17, newcomer to the elite ASP Top 34 following September's midyear rotation, scored an impressive victory in the dying moments of his Round 3 bout with veteran Australian Bede Durbidge (AUS), 28. The young goofy-footer took to the air on his forehand to net a 7.73 out of a possible 10 in the final moments of the heat to advance through to Round 4 of competition – his best result to date.
“It was a very tough heat for me,” Medina said. “Bede (Durbidge) is an excellent surfer. I was only able to turn the heat in the last seconds. France is a special place for me. I won the ‘King of the Groms' event two years ago and now I'm in the main event. It's a great feeling. The waves and weather are great and I'm very stoked to have the support of my family here with me.”
Jeremy Flores (FRA), 23, posted a Round 3 victory over Kai Otton (AUS), 30, but reinjured his ankle before the heat was finished. Although current scheduled to compete in Round 4 of the Quiksilver Pro France, the young Frenchman's status is undetermined at this point.
Mick Fanning (AUS), 30, defending Quiksilver Pro France winner, was eliminated this morning in a low-scoring affair against teammate Knox in Round 3 of competition meaning a new winner will be crowned this year.
Taj Burrow (AUS), 33, punctuated the afternoon's action with some electric surfing on his backhand. The lightning-fast Western Australian ran riot on the inside bank lefthanders, pipping Travis Logie (ZAF), 32, with a final wave in the final moments.
“It was pretty intense there at the end,” Burrow said. “We were the first heat to go try down on that bank so we were the guinea pigs. Travis (Logie) was absolutely ripping too so it was really close. Stoked to get through and feel like I'm settling into France nicely and I think we have swell turning up in the next couple of days so I'm looking forward to it.”
Event organizers will reconvene tomorrow morning at 8am to assess conditions for a possible 8:30am start.
When competition resumes, up first will be Taylor Knox (USA), 40, Michel Bourez (PYF), 25, and Jeremy Flores (FRA), 23, in Heat 1 of Round 4.
Highlights from the Quiksilver Pro France will be available via http://quiksilverlive.com/profrance2011/