The first heat of round four of the Quiksilver Pro France hit the water at 8:15 am local time this morning. Taylor Knox was up against Tahiti's Michel Bourez in the 30-minute heat, but with 16 minutes remaining, the hooter was sounded and both surfers returned to the beach. Bourez and Knox were a little bemused with the call but the judges had put a temporary stop to their heat because they couldn't see the ocean through a heavy blanket of fog.
The fog had rolled in within minutes of the start of competition. Knox had caught two waves and Bourez one when the head judge decided to put their heat on hold. Little did he know that it would be close to four hours before the pair would be paddling back out.
During the extended break, Bourez and Knox met with the head judge Rich Porta a couple of times to discuss the re-start. Knox was upset about the jet ski wake through his first wave, which had really hampered his scoring potential. In a show of sportsmanship, Bourez agreed to re-surf the whole heat.
Porta pointed out that Knox held the record for the most heat re-starts at the World Championship level with six against his name. Knox laughed and explained that there was always somebody else in the heat that hadn't caught a wave either, so hence the need for constant re-starts. Knox's good friend Kelly Slater, hanging around waiting for his own heat, joked about Knox holding the ASP record.
Knox shot back, "You've got so many, I'll take any record I can get."
Two hours later, with the ocean still unsighted because of thick fog, Slater had another dig at Knox. "I think you've just set the record for the longest break between re-starts."
Knox answered back, "I'll claim it. Do you reckon they write it up in the record books?"
In the re-surf, Bourez advanced straight to the quarterfinals while Knox had to surf against Adrian Buchan in round five. A convincing win against the former event winner meant that Knox will face off against Bourez again in tomorrow's second quarter final. Whichever way the heat turns out, Knox is looking at his best result for the year.
Looking down the draw for round four today there were some mouth watering three man match-ups that never seemed to eventuate. How's this for a heat: Jordy Smith, Alejo Muniz and Julian Wilson. You'd expect these young guns to take to the air and blow up with their cutting their edge surfing. But the outcome was Julian Wilson in third with one of his magic boards snapped on his first wave, Smith looking lackluster and pulling half hearted turns, while Muniz, known for his air maneuvers, nailed first place with tail-sliding top turns.
In the last heat of round four everyone expected Owen Wright to continue his recent excellent form -- everyone except Taj Burrow, who blew the heat apart breaking his tail loose at every opportunity.
The round five match ups were a mix. Jeremy Flores officially withdrew from the event with ligament damage to his ankle and handed Gabriel Medina a quarterfinal against Kelly Slater.
The results of round five, heat three could have serious ramifications on this year's world title. If you'd watched the whole event, and considering Owen Wright's last three final appearances, you would never have picked Jordy Smith as a winner. Both surfers went to the air, Smith on his backhand and Wright on his forehand. And while Smith completed his rotations, Wright couldn't find the right ramps to finish his trademark airs. Wright had to settle for a ninth place finish, which has opened the door just a little wider for Slater's 11th world title.
Smith was happy to get the win. He's been out with the rib injury for the past three events if you count Teahupoo, where he went down. Owen Wright had got on a roll while Smith was out of contention.
"I knew it was going to be a tough heat against Owen," said Smith later, " I just took it as a free surf heat and tried to relax. I was really mad with myself after the one earlier today and I had to try and calm down and just go out and do what I do best."
What Smith does best is massive airs and that's exactly what he did to get through to the quarters.
Fog permitting, the Quiksilver Pro will wrap up tomorrow. Slater has never won this event since his sponsor (Quiksilver) took it over from Rip Curl ten years ago. He does know how to win here. Hossegor was the scene for his very first win at the elite level, 19 years ago, but there are a few young guns that could get in his way before the contest is done. For now, someone get out here and cut through this fog.
QUIKSILVER PRO FRANCE ROUND 4 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Michel Bourez (PYF) 14.57, Taylor Knox (USA) 11.17, Jeremy Flores (FRA) N/S
Heat 2: Kelly Slater (USA) 15.83, Gabriel Medina (BRA) 15.80, Adrian Buchan (AUS) 7.83
Heat 3: Alejo Muniz (BRA) 13.10, Jordy Smith (ZAF) 11.10, Julian Wilson (AUS) 10.03
Heat 4: Taj Burrow (AUS) 17.43, Damien Hobgood (USA) 14.13, Owen Wright (AUS) 11.10
QUIKSILVER PRO FRANCE ROUND 5 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Taylor Knox (USA) 13.50 def. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 12.53
Heat 2: Gabriel Medina (BRA) Advances Over Jeremy Flores (FRA)
Heat 3: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 14.74 def. Owen Wright (AUS) 10.53
Heat 4: Julian Wilson (AUS) 15.16 def. Damien Hobgood (USA) 9.86
QUIKSILVER PRO FRANCE QUARTERFINAL MATCH-UPS:
QF 1: Michel Bourez (PYF) vs. Taylor Knox (USA)
QF 2: Kelly Slater (USA) vs. Gabriel Medina (BRA)
QF 3: Alejo Muniz (BRA) vs. Jordy Smith (ZAF)
QF 4: Taj Burrow (AUS) vs. Julian Wilson (AUS)