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Friday, September 28, 2012
Updated: October 5, 11:41 AM ET
"This is France"

By Peter 'Joli' Wilson

The catch phrase for the first day at the Quiksilver Pro France had to be, "This is France." It was repeated again and again by the surfers of the top 34. Were they just trying to figure out which country they were in, or describing the fickle barreling beach break conditions on the first day of competition?

The short answer is probably a little bit of both. The Trestles event in California was just over a week ago and for most surfers, it was a quick trip across the Atlantic to the South of France. But the top 34 hasn't had to compete in beach break conditions since Brazil in May. The last few contests have been reefs -- coral and cobblestone.

The full moon is providing big tidal differences and when the contest organizers got their first glimpse of the low tide conditions Friday morning, there seemed little doubt that the contest would get underway. With A-frame peaks in the three to five-foot range directly in front of the main contest venue and clean barrels running off in either direction, what event director in his right mind wouldn't have pushed the 'Go' button?

Kelly Slater
Who did you think was going to have the heaviest barrel of the day?

The first heat between Taylor Knox, Taj Burrow and Kai Otten would be a test run for the conditions. Kieren Perrow, the ASP's Surfer Representative, had to be called in from the free surf session taking place to consult with the head judge and the contest director on a decision about starting. Perrow was still drawing breath and dripping wet when the announcement came over the contest PA.

"We are starting in 15 minutes, first heat get ready, s'il vous plaît."

Burrow won the first heat with scores of 7.0 and a 6.8 points while Otten scored a 9.0 point ride for an amazing backhand tube, but didn't have a backup score. Knox broke a board mid-heat before finishing in third spot. It was going to be that sort of day.

Kelly Slater, riding the same quad fin board he won Trestles on kept busy in his heat and easily advanced while other top seeds like Adriano de Souza, who lost to fellow countryman Jadson Andre, and John John Florence, defeated by Pat Guduaskas, now find themselves in the dreaded round two eliminations heats.

When Slater was interviewed after his heat he suggested that some surfers might not to be happy with their results in the conditions. (Sounds like any day in competitive surfing.) Some guys wearing the high seed red jersey were not happy with the outcomes of their heats today.

Dane Reynolds, Quiksilver's wildest wildcard, was responsible for taking out number two seed Joel Parkinson today. Parkinson and Bede Durbidge elected to trade barrels on one peak while Reynolds moved off to the side and surfed a peak all to himself. The waves weren't quite as big at his spot, but the barrels seemed to be running longer. It was a decision that paid off.

In his usual lackadaisical manner, Reynolds described the win as, "a lot of fun," and gave us the insight that he, "had a good time out there."

When pushed for a few more words his answer was still brief:
"There weren't many opportunities, but I had a peak to myself for most of the heat and I sat off to the side of the other guys, (Parkinson and Durbidge) and I'm stoked to get a win."

Owen Wright
If the barrels proved too fickle, you could always fly above them like Owen Wright.

Current ratings leader and No. 1 seed Mick Fanning had a bit more to say after his first round win.

"It's nice to get the first one out of the way," said Fanning as he walked back up the beach after his heat.

"It's difficult when it's like this, you can't really sit and wait for sets. You just have to keep busy catching waves and if a good one comes in, it does and if it doesn't, then you can't get too stressed about it. There is nothing really super crazy coming through and most of the barrels are so small that you can't get really deep. If you try, you just get knocked off. You know it's France and you've got to get through these early heats because anything can happen (to the conditions) here, you don't want to leave anything to chance."

Yes, it is France, and yes this part of the world can produce some of the best beach break conditions on this planet. Hossegor is legendary for its sandbars. As fun barrels turned to frustrating chop, round one was called three heats shy of completion. Maybe today wasn't perfect in the minds of some of the top 34, but clean barreling waves were too hard to pass up for the opening day.


Heat 1: Taj Burrow (AUS) 14.16, Kai Otton (AUS) 11.03, Taylor Knox (USA) 7.00
Heat 2: Jadson Andre (BRA) 9.04, Adriano De Souza (BRA) 8.70, Damien Hobgood (USA) 8.20
Heat 3: Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 12.70, John John Florence (HAW) 11.67, Miguel Pupo (BRA) 6.86
Heat 4: Kelly Slater (USA) 12.06, Dusty Payne (HAW) 7.74, Tiago Pires (PRT) 4.16
Heat 5: Dane Reynolds (USA) 10.66, Joel Parkinson (AUS) 9.90, Bede Durbidge (AUS) 5.40
Heat 6: Mick Fanning (AUS) 14.50, Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 12.10, Travis Logie (ZAF) 8.56
Heat 7: Alejo Muniz (BRA) 14.83, Kolohe Andino (USA) 12.97, Josh Kerr (AUS) 10.00
Heat 8: Brett Simpson (USA) 11.67, Yadin Nicol (AUS) 10.70, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 7.83
Heat 9: Michel Bourez (PYF) 10.43, Owen Wright (AUS) 8.30, Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 5.77

Heat 10: Jordy Smith (ZAF), Heitor Alves (BRA), Adam Melling (AUS)
Heat 11: Julian Wilson (AUS), Adrian Buchan (AUS), Kieren Perrow (AUS)
Heat 12: Gabriel Medina (BRA), C.J. Hobgood (USA), Fredrick Patacchia (HAW)