Wildcards run riot in Round 2 of the Quiksilver Pro
COOLANGATTA, Queensland/AUS (Tuesday, March 13, 2018) - The 2018 World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT) is showing no shortage of competitive drama this season as the upsets from the women’s event continued through the first eliminations of the men’s competition. The Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast, Stop No. 1 of the WSL CT, saw major surprises today in elimination Round 2 in three-to-four foot (1- 1.2 metre) conditions at the famed Snapper Rocks venue.
Further proving how unpredictable the 2018 season will be, a massive upset kicked off the first men’s elimination round of the year with current World No. 1 John John Florence (HAW)eliminated by event wildcard Mikey Wright (AUS). Today was just another milestone reached for Wright in 2018 in addition to his recent success at the Australian Boardriders Battle Final and Newcastle Surfest Qualifying Series 6,000 event. The young competitor has made it clear that he will work hard to reach the elite CT and join his siblings, Tyler and Owen Wright, by continuing to prove himself in the Qualifying Series tour, the pathway where surfers earn their way to the top competition ranks.
Wildcard Mikey Wright surfs past 2 x WSL Champion and current World No. 1, John John Florence, in the opening elimination heat of Round 1.
“I’m so thankful to get this wildcard from Quiksilver and have the opportunity to come up against the world’s best,” Wright said. “Obviously, coming up against the World Champion is going to be tough but anyone on the CT is going to be really tough, so I just wanted to go out and surf my own heat and just work on getting the best waves. The waves are really fun so I can’t wait to get back out there and do what I love to do.”
Florence’s shocking loss is the first time since 1991 that the reigning men’s World Champion has been knocked out of Round 2 in the opening event of the season (Tom Curren won the Title in 1990 and was a no-show in the first half of the 1991 season). Florence will leave with his first 25th place finish in 25 events.
“Mikey [Wright] is such a great surfer and he really surfed well in that heat,” Florence said. “His wave choice was so good. Every time I would pull off a wave, he’d be right behind me on a bigger, better wall. You win some and lose some, and I’ll still take a lot from that heat and work on that heading into the next couple of events. Every event you go in you’re looking for the win, so a 25th is no worse than a 13th, anything but a win is all the same. I’m feeling really good this year. I just need to get back into that competitive mindset and focus on my wave choice and hopefully not get another last-place finish at Bells Beach.”
Gabriel Medina (BRA), 2014 WSL Champion and 2014 event winner, did not let himself fall into the upset conversation with his win over Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) in Round 2. The Brazilian unleashed his signature backhand surfing to secure his win with a 13.00 combined score (out of a possible 20).
Trials winner Fioravanti charged through the heat with big attempts but was not able to lock in the two-wave requirement to defeat the Brazilian superstar. After falling off the elite tour last year, Fioravanti leaves in 25th place and will head back to the Qualifying Series tour.
“The wildcards can be so dangerous as we just saw with Mikey [Wright] taking out John John [Florence] so I knew Leo [Fioravanti] was going to be hard,” Medina said. “It was really hard to find a good wave out there, but it looks like there are some good waves coming, so I’m stoked to get through. I’m feeling fit and my boards feel great, so I’m really excited to have the 2018 season underway.”
With the withdrawal of 11-time WSL Champion Kelly Slater (USA), Michael February (ZAF)was given the opportunity of a lifetime to take his spot as an injury replacement. February took full advantage of his position and took down 2016 Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast event winner Matt Wilkinson (AUS) in a tight Round 2 matchup. After back-to-back finals at Snapper Rocks, Wilkinson was a clear favorite, but the powerful goofy-foot was unable to get into a rhythm, leaving February to take his first victory on the biggest stage in surfing.
“Kelly [Slater] messaged me to explain his situation, which was really cool to get his perspective and share mine with him,” February said. “It’s unfortunate for him to have to pull out, but I’m stoked to have the opportunity to surf in a Championship Tour event. The end of last year was so tough as I just missed out on qualification so to have a chance now feels amazing. It’s been a weird couple of days waiting to find out if I’d be in the event so it’s great to now be in and to win my first heat feels incredible.”
Injury replacement Michael February eliminated 2016 event winner and 2017 event runner-up, Matt Wilkinson, in Round 2.
2012 WSL World Champion Joel Parkinson (AUS) found redemption in his Round 2 heat, posting the highest two-wave total of the event so far, an excellent 17.03. Parkinson’s local knowledge was evident as he escaped the biggest barrel of the day to dispatch of California’sPat Gudauskas (USA) on his return to the CT. The two-time Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast event winner also squashed any question of a looming retirement.
“It’s funny that after all these years the first elimination heat of the season always gets that nervous feeling going," Parkinson said. “Motivation in competition is easy to find because surfing is something that I have always loved and that’s why we do what we do. I’m looking forward to doing this for the rest of this year and hopefully a few years to come.”
2016 WSL Champion Adriano de Souza (BRA) will also advance through to Round 3 after eliminating compatriot Ian Gouveia (BRA) in Heat 4.
In his first Championship Tour event representing Japan, the last thing Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) wanted was an equal 25th finish, but this was a possibility before he came up against Keanu Asing (HAW) in Heat 8 of Round 2. Asing had a fair bit to prove also as he made his return to the CT after being relegated to the Qualifying Series in 2017. With conditions slowing at the bottom of the tide, the two traded average scores throughout the heat, but it was Igarashi who came out on top at the heat’s end.
2018 CT Rookies Michael Rodrigues (BRA), Tomas Hermes (BRA), and Wade Carmichael (AUS) survived their first Round 2 elimination heats today after defeating Sebastian Zietz (HAW), Joan Duru (FRA), and Jesse Mendes (BRA), respectively.
Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast Round 2 Results:
Heat 1: Mikey Wright (AUS) 15.10 def. John John Florence (HAW) 10.76
Heat 2: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 13.00 def. Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 7.90
Heat 3: Michael February (ZAF) 11.03 def. Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 8.97
Heat 4: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 11.40 def. Ian Gouveia (BRA) 10.07
Heat 5: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 17.03 def. Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 9.67
Heat 6: Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 14.67 def. Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 10.80
Heat 7: Frederico Morais (PRT) 12.16 def. Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 9.90
Heat 8: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 10.60 def. Keanu Asing (HAW) 8.86
Heat 9: Willian Cardoso (BRA) 12.90 def. Caio Ibelli (BRA) 10.83
Heat 10: Conner Coffin (USA) 12.20 def. Yago Dora (BRA) 10.60
Heat 11: Tomas Hermes (BRA) 14.93 def. Joan Duru (FRA) 12.17
Heat 12: Wade Carmichael (AUS) 11.74 def. Jesse Mendes (BRA) 11.13