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|Julian Wilson was set to square off against Kelly Slater in the third quarterfinal, but due to unfavorable winds the contest was called off for the day just as they were about to paddle out.|
The daily routine during the Volcom Fiji Pro on Namotu Island has seen the ASP head judge, Rich Porter, contest director Matt Wilson and whatever surfers who want to go for an early surf leave in the dark and head out to Cloudbreak. This has been the ritual for just over a week and this morning was no different, except the surfers didn't come back to the island with the contest officials.
"Event on hold. Next call at 7:30am." The official call circulated amongst the surfers and officials. The 7:30 call was then extended to a 9:30 call, but before that deadline had passed, Mick Fanning, Owen Wright and Taj Burrow returned to the island with news that the waves had actually been pretty good before the tide filled in and suggested the contest should start about an hour after the 11:00 high tide. It was all the motivation organizers needed and the contest was called on at Cloudbreak and would start as close to noon as possible.
Round five contained some interesting matchups with a number of world title contenders lining up to keep their rating points ticking over and their title aspirations on track. Joel Parkinson was up against Taj Burrow and Mick Fanning needed to get past a Cloudbreak expert in Damien Hobgood to keep his year on track. Burrow took down Parkinson, the current world number one, while Fanning knocked out Hobgood with more turns than barrels.
"That heat was so stressful," said Fanning paddling back to the marshalling boat after the win. "Getting Damo out here was never going to be an easy one. I've been stressing over it all night."
Everyone had thought the dropping tide would produce barrels and the judging was reflecting that with even biggest turns getting average scores. All of the surfers were hunting barrels, but they were few and far between. Following up on his good result in Brazil, Julian Wilson knocked out Owen Wright in the third heat of the morning.
"Getting Owen out there was a hard draw for me," said Wilson," especially with him going frontside. They were tricky conditions out there. The heat before ours was all turns and I started with one going for all turns, just to get a score on the board, then tried chasing down the barrels along the inside. It worked for me and it felt good to beat him. I'm stoked."
|Taj Burrow found himself up against a very inform Gabriel Medina in the quarters, his head in his hands was the result.|
By the time the two goofy-footers, CJ Hobgood and Heitor Alves paddled out the tide had dropped enough to provide genuine open barrels. Nobody wants to draw either Hobgood brother in their heat at Cloudbreak, but with Damien out of the contest it was left up to CJ to keep the family tradition going. He didn't disappoint and charged the inside ones with gusto, setting up a rematch with Adriano de Souza in the last quarterfinal.
There have been a lot of windy days in Fiji, a lot more than usual. The pattern has been mild winds to start the day, increasing in velocity into the afternoon. The midday call was always going to be a risky one considering the weather patterns, but the plan was to run found five and the quarterfinals and finish the comp on the early morning low tide the following day. The plan nearly worked.
Round five was completed on the dropping tide, but right as the first quarter paddled out the southeast trade winds kicked up a notch and by quarterfinal two it was howling, destroying the lineup.
In quarterfinal one between Fanning and John Florence the two-time world champ and seasoned campaigner brought out the same mind games he used to defeat Kelly Slater at Bells Beach in the Rip Curl Pro final. Ultimately, Fanning dominated the heat.
"When John John took that first wave and wiped out and gave me priority I knew I could control the heat," said Fanning. And control the heat he did, using priority to dictate choice of waves for both surfers. For the first time in this event Florence looked rattled and out of sync, uncharacteristically taking off on dud waves and even being sucked up the face of one and pitched over the falls.
|CJ Hobgood could potentially find himself in the semifinals against fellow Floridian Kelly Slater, which would make for good theater back in the Sunshine State.|
"I had a good day," said Fanning. "They were two massive scalps [Damien Hobgood and Florence] for me out there. I can safely say, job done for today, and now all I have to do is keep it rolling for tomorrow."
Gabriel Medina was also happy with his day, posting his best result of the year so far by knocking out Taj Burrow in the second quarterfinal. "It was great to win that heat against Taj, he's one of my favorite surfers and it was a tough heat," he said. "I did have a bit of luck ... it was kind of windy."
It really was "kind of windy." While Wilson paddled out for the third quarterfinal, his opponent, Kelly Slater, was strangely absent from the lineup. As the hooter sounded to end the Medina v. Burrow heat the beach commentator announced the contest was off for the day. Wilson looked around perplexed and caught a jet ski back to the marshalling boat where a number of animated discussions took place. It transpired that the contest had been called off before Wilson had even paddled out, but nobody had bothered to tell him. Slater knew and hadn't paddled out. Wilson and his coach were not happy. "I don't want to talk about it," was his only comment later, but if he needs any extra incentive to go hard in tomorrow's heat against Slater, this afternoon's "windy" call could certainly do it.
Surf conditions for tomorrow morning are supposed to be cleaner with much lighter winds. With only five more heats to wrap the whole thing up, maybe the last words today belong to contest director Matt Wilson. When asked what the plan was for the rest of the contest, he wisely answered, "We'll let Cloudbreak make the call."
VOLCOM FIJI PRO ROUND 5 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Mick Fanning (AUS) 10.17 def. Damien Hobgood (USA) 8.54
Heat 2: Taj Burrow (AUS) 16.03 def. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 13.00
Heat 3: Julian Wilson (AUS) 14.83 def. Owen Wright (AUS) 12.00
Heat 4: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 15.57 def. Heitor Alves (BRA) 7.50
VOLCOM FIJI PRO QUARTERFINAL RESULTS:
QF 1: Mick Fanning (AUS) 16.60 def. John John Florence (HAW) 9.10
QF 2: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 13.60 def. Taj Burrow (AUS) 10.46
VOLCOM FIJI PRO REMAINING QUARTERFINAL MATCH-UPS:
QF 3: Kelly Slater (USA) vs. Julian Wilson (AUS)
QF 4: Adriano de Souza (BRA) vs. C.J. Hobgood (USA)
VOLCOM FIJI PRO SEMIFINAL MATCH-UPS:
SF 1: Mick Fanning (AUS) vs. Gabriel Medina (BRA)
SF 2: TBD