As the quarterfinalists were decided at the Quiksilver Pro France the world title plot thickens. In tricky conditions that yielded few scoring opportunities, both Taj Burrow and Jordy Smith's run in Hossegor was brought to a screeching halt.
Burrow slogged through a very slow heat against Mick Fanning in Round 5. On paper it looked like one of the premier matchups of the contest, but the surf fell apart and the two struggled to find waves. Fanning ended up with a measly 10.17 to Burrow's 5.94.
"When I knew I was going to have Taj, you know he's been in form for the last couple of events and he's been ripping, I knew it was going to be a really big heat, but the waves didn't really come to play," said Fanning afterward. "I just snuck a couple of head dips and he didn't have much, it was really difficult out there."
Smith fell to an on-fire Filipe Toledo, who once again went to the air with a huge front side full rotation to put Smith out of the heat. Toledo's win sets up an interesting pairing between the Brazilian rookie and the veteran world champ Kelly Slater.
"The waves were not really good, it's a bummer but there's not much we can do about it," said Slater after breezing past Toledo and Brett Simpson in Round 4 to earn an automatic spot in the quarters.
Julian Wilson and Gabriel Medina continue to lead the charge for those not in the world title hunt. In Round 4 Medina outlasted Wilson and Smith, even after breaking his board in the shorebreak. Wilson responded in Round 5 with a convincing win over Simpson. The two aerialists will go at it again when they face each other in the quarters.
"I hope I can get another win here, it's all I'm looking for," Medina stated. "That was a fun heat against Julian and Jordy, I got that one wave that was so good and I almost fell so I'm stoked I made it."
With a Round 4 win John John Florence, is also threatening and poses a huge threat to Fanning in their quarterfinal matchup.
"There's no pressure for a title or anything, so I'm just trying to make a couple heats and have fun," responded Florence. "I really want to win another event, I haven't won one since Rio so that'd be pretty sick to win another one at some point."
Fanning has been so consistent this year that he has to make it to the semifinals to actually gain points, so this is a very crucial heat for him and the title race.
"I woke up today and sort of thought, if you win that first heat it could potentially knock somebody out of the race, but you know you just have to take it heat by heat," said Fanning. "I'm just stoked to get through another tight one, I've had so many of those this year, I'm just trying to play cool under pressure."
Less than four hours of surfing remain in the Quiksilver Pro and three out of the five world title contenders are still in the contest, this thing's going to get really interesting before it's all said and done.
UPCOMING QUIKSILVER PRO FRANCE QUARTER-FINAL MATCHUPS:
QF1: Kai Otton (AUS) vs Joel Parkinson (AUS)
QF2: John John Florence (HAW) vs Mick Fanning (AUS)
QF3: Kelly Slater (USA) vs Filipe Toledo (BRA)
QF4: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs Julian Wilson (AUS)
QUIKSILVER PRO FRANCE ROUND 5 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 9.60 def. Michel Bourez (PYF) 8.17
Heat 2: Mick Fanning (AUS) 10.17 def. Taj Burrow (AUS) 5.94
Heat 3: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 14.73 def. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 13.64
Heat 4: Julian Wilson (AUS) 15.20 def. Brett Simpson (USA) 7.44
QUIKSILVER PRO FRANCE ROUND 4 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Kai Otton (AUS) 19.17, Joel Parkinson (AUS) 17.80, Taj Burrow (AUS) 17.50
Heat 2: John John Florence (HAW) 12.17, Mick Fanning (AUS) 8.00, Michel Bourez (PYF) 6.73
Heat 3: Kelly Slater (USA) 10.00, Filipe Toledo (BRA) 7.44, Brett Simpson (USA) 7.30
Heat 4: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 17.43, Julian Wilson (AUS) 12.00, Jordy Smith (ZAF) 10.77