The Quiksilver Pro France started with a bang. Under the gun due to a lackluster swell forecast, the eighth event of the 2013 ASP World Tour got under way in playful three- to four-foot conditions and the talent-rich field seized the opportunity.
Kelly Slater, Taj Burrow and Julian Wilson all blitzed through Round 1, leaving little question that they're the contest's early frontrunners. Wilson's enjoying a late-season surge, while Slater and Burrow are embroiled in a tight world title race, along with Jordy Smith and Mick Fanning.
In the dying minutes of his heat Slater found himself in need of a big score and, true to form, he dropped a nine-point ride, gaining some much needed momentum in the process.
"Jeez it was a slow one, in all the rotation Adam [Melling] had priority," explained Slater afterwards. "There only was one good wave on the sets and he kept picking them. That last one I got was actually a little funny cause he could have caught the wave, but there was kind of a flatness and a wedge in between him and I and he would have been behind the foamball where I was taking off. I couldn't believe it when I saw him stop paddling, I looked down the line and it had such a clean face, it was fun."
Kolohe Andino came out like a man on a mission. He posted a 17.4-point total against title front-runner Fanning, putting on a backside clinic as he attacked the running lefts on offer at Le Penon, Hossegor. He has yet to really find his rhythm on the world tour, but it is becoming obvious that he is starting to gain confidence, surfing stronger and looking more and more comfortable every heat. For his part in it, Fanning was relegated to Round 2, where he made short work of Italian wildcard Leo Fiorvanti, keeping his world-title aspirations alive.
World No. 3 Jordy Smith also had a brief stumble in Round 1, falling to wildcard Ramzi Boukhiam.
"I had a last-minute call from [contest director] Micky Picon who told me I had a spot in the event," said Moroccan wildcard Boukhiam, who was actually in Bali at the time. "I was against some of the best surfers in the world, but no pressure. I'm just going to try and keep going like this, I've been looking up to those guys since I'm super young and now that I'm getting older I want to try and beat them."
Smith came back strong in Round 2, making a statement against Dane Reynolds. Smith tore apart the little lefts, throwing a variety of backside airs and clean off-the-lips to put Reynolds in a hole he couldn't climb out of.
"Dane can do anything at any given time, you don't just beat Dane with excellence, you got to go out there with a strategy," Smith said after exiting the water.
Adding to the day's world title drama, Freddy Patacchia put in a solid performance, taking out Joel Parkinson in Round 1. In Round 2 Parkinson faced Frenchman Marc Lacomare, narrowly edging him out. Lacomare had the defending world champion on the ropes the entire heat, but the judges rewarded Parkinson with two eight-point rides in the last five minutes to come from behind.
"They don't get any tighter than that," said Parkinson afterwards. "He's been knocking on the door of the world tour for a few years now, and he has the talent to beat anybody. I was nervous, for sure."
With a full day in the books, the contest organizers have bought themselves some time to play with. They can now pick and choose when they run, working in concert with the tides and ever-changing conditions in France. Early forecast models indicate there could be a proper swell on the way for the second half of next week, so don't be surprised if the Quik Pro is put on ice over the weekend.
REMAINING QUIKSILVER PRO FRANCE ROUND 2 MATCHUPS:
Heat 6: C.J Hobgood (USA) vs Alejo Muniz (BRA)
Heat 7: Michel Bourez (PYF) vs Damien Hobgood (USA)
Heat 8: Nat Young (USA) vs Brett Simpson (USA)
Heat 9: Kai Otton (AUS) vs Adam Melling (AUS)
Heat 10: John John Florence (HAW) vs Matt Wilkinson (AUS)
Heat 11: Sebastien Zietz (HAW) vs Bede Durbidge (AUS)
Heat 12: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs Travis Logie (ZAF)
QUIKSILVER PRO FRANCE ROUND 2 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Mick Fanning (AUS) 15.43 def. Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 8.00
Heat 2: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 18.90 def. Dane Reynolds (USA) 12.00
Heat 3: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 16.50 def. Marc Lacomare (FRA) 15.90
Heat 4: Aritz Aranburu (EUK) 15.50 def. Josh Kerr (AUS) 14.47
Heat 5: Adriano De Souza (BRA) 17.66 def. Yadin Nicol (AUS) 15.06
QUIKSILVER PRO FRANCE ROUND 1 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Kieren Perrow (AUS) 15.27, Travis Logie (ZAF) 13.00, Josh Kerr (AUS) 9.43
Heat 2: Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 14.77, Joel Parkinson (AUS) 12.80, Aritz Aranburu (EUK) 9.83
Heat 3: Taj Burrow (AUS) 16.80, Bede Durbidge (AUS) 15.17, Marc Lacomare (FRA) 13.60
Heat 4: Ramzi Boukhiam (MAR) 13.67, Jordy Smith (ZAF) 13.50, Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 7.50
Heat 5: Kelly Slater (USA) 16.76, Adam Melling (AUS) 15.40, Dane Reynolds (USA) 8.50
Heat 6: Kolohe Andino (USA) 17.40, Mick Fanning (AUS) 13.86, Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 13.67
Heat 7: Julian Wilson (AUS) 15.23, Gabriel Medina (BRA) 15.07, Yadin Nicol (AUS) 10.10
Heat 8: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 17.67, Adriano De Souza (BRA) 15.16, Alejo Muniz (BRA) 11.70
Heat 9: Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 16.17, C.J Hobgood (USA) 15.33, Sebastien Zietz (HAW) 15.26
Heat 10: Miguel Pupo (BRA) 15.34, John John Florence (HAW) 13.47, Michel Bourez (PYF) 11.43
Heat 11: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 16.23, Nat Young (USA) 12.20, Damien Hobgood (USA) 12.13
Heat 12: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 15.90, Kai Otton (AUS) 13.67, Brett Simpson (USA) 12.06