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"Welcome to France and welcome to a new swell," the commentator blasted out over the PA early this morning. The Quiksilver Pro France had been called on at La Graviere, in Hossegor before the sun had even risen. The Top 34 were going about pre contest warm up in solid six foot surf. But there was one major problem to getting the contest under way -- a heavy blanket of fog.
After yesterday's one to two-foot conditions that caused a lay day, this morning's new swell was a blessing for organizers, but the fog meant the judges couldn't even see the water. The beach commentator kept announcing the delays and it was nearly 9:30 a.m. before the first heat paddled out into the peeling lefts and rights of the renowned French beach-breaks.
The first two heats didn't go to script. Taylor Knox defeated the hometown favorite, Frenchman Jeremy Flores, and Joel Parkinson went down to Jadson Andre. It looked like the third top seed would go down as well in heat three, until defending event champion, Mick Fanning, paddled into what was the wave of the day -- a deep, green, right hand barrel that happened almost in slow motion and lasted close to six seconds. The result was a 9.37-point tube ride that won him the heat.
"Brett (Simpson) was winning the heat and was pushing me pretty deep. I saw there was a little double up in the first wave of the set and I paddled my a** off. I was lucky enough to get it, and it just went, and went, and went. I know I had a funny claim on the way out, but it was such a good wave," laughed the returning victor.
|The much awaited return of Dane Reynolds.|
Brett Simpson was philosophical about his loss, considering he'd broken his board going for a similar barrel on the next wave of the set. "It was fun out there, I had some good waves and had a really good start and you always know with Mick that he's going to get good scores," he explained as he watched grommets swarm around Fanning asking for photos and autographs.
"I was leading towards the end of the heat. Then that wave came for Mick, and the best thing I could do was paddle him as far out as I could. We were pretty far out, but then he just squeaked into it. As it turned out, it was the perfect timing to get barreled. I watched it from behind and if they were throwing 9's at it, then I knew it must have been pretty good."
Simpson has had some tough heats over the last three events, losing to Joel Parkinson by decimal points and today it was another of the Cooly Kids who had sent him to the round two elimination round.
While Fanning scored the wave of the day, Julian Wilson nailed the heat of the day, leaving both his opponents, Dusty Payne and Bede Durbidge needing combination of scores to come anywhere close to threatening the outcome. Wilson reveled in the clean open faces, sliding the tail out at will or throwing buckets of spray skyward as he hacked his way down the line.
When asked about the heat he came out with the classic understatement, "Yeah, it was fun." Wilson might have had fun but his opponents certainly didn't. He was one of the surfers warming up in the foggy conditions early in the day and was uncertain what sort of board to ride because the waves weren't as good as they looked from the beach.
"I free-surfed before the heats this morning and really struggled to even really surf," said the 22-year-old regularfoot, "My normal board for these sorts of conditions just wasn't working, so I just jumped on this brand new JS board and it felt really lively and just what I needed for out there, I just went with my gut instinct and it worked out perfectly."
While Fanning and Wilson were the highlights of the day, Dane Reynolds has to get a mention for surfing in his first World Tour event of the year. For the record, he scored one point on his first wave and finished second to Owen Wright with Chris Davidson third in the round one heat. Reynolds caused an upset in round two, choosing a big floater over an air to get the safe score and eliminate Adriano de Souza from the contest, not to mention any hope of a World Title in 2011.
Reynolds said he was still feeling the effects of a rib injury which made it difficult to paddle."I can do it," he laughed," mostly paddling and getting to my feet is worse than when I'm actually riding a wave, so that's good, because you don't get scored on paddling and getting to your feet."
|Joel Parkinson need a semifinal result to really keep his World Title hopes alive, not an early exit.|
Joel Parkinson not only finished third in his round one heat behind Jadson Andre and John John Florence but he was eliminated from the event by contest wildcard, Moroccan Ramzi Boukhiam in round two. The loss virtually puts an end to Parkinson's world title aspirations for 2011.
While the barrels and lips were kind to some, Kelly Slater called it a "nightmare." He still won his round one heat and went straight to round three. Jordy Smith returned, after missing New York and Trestles, to win his first heat. Michel Bourez put up an impressive 16-point total. And Heitor Alves, who hurt his knee at the Billabong Azores Islands Pro last week, was a no-show in round one. If he fails to check in five minutes prior to his round two heat, he will be replaced by an alternate.
The swell is predicted to keep rising over the next two days due to hurricane activity in the Atlantic, so it looks like the French beach breaks will keep firing for the next few days and keep smiles on the faces of the Quiksilver organizers. After all, they've have had a pretty good hurricane season.QUIKSILVER PRO FRANCE ROUND 1 RESULTS: