The shock elimination Monday at The Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast Pro of hometown hero and former winner Mick Fanning by Brazilian ASP tour rookie Miguel Pupo left most of the crowd in stunned silence. The only noise on the beach was the whistling and cheering from Brazilian fans sprinkled across the beach. Fanning, one of the local favorites, in a gesture of sportsmanship, high-fived Pupo as he rode his last wave of the heat but left the beach visibly upset with his performance, losing in round three for the second year in a row.
Pupo was more nervous facing the press after his heat than he was surfing against Fanning.
"I was really trying not to think that I was surfing against Mick," he said later with nervous laughter. "If I'd looked at him I would have been really nervous. I was trying not to look at him before the heat and then in the water. He's pretty much my favorite surfer and I was just trying to focus on my surfing and catch some good waves and that's what I did. Mick is from here and he knows which wave is going to double up, which wave is good. He's such a good surfer but he sat too much and then the time was gone."
While Pupo and Fanning didn't exchange words during their heat, good friends Owen Wright and Matty Wilkinson laughed and joked through theirs early this morning.
Maybe Wright, who won the exchange, could be more expansive about his feelings. This is the third year on the ASP tour for both surfers but the first time they have drawn each other in a heat.
"We are good mates and one of us was going through at the end of the day. I was so nervous before the heat but once I got out there I felt comfortable. It was just like (free) surfing with Wilko and having a good time. I know his surfing so well and he's such a good backhand surfer. There were no death stares at each other. We've done so many Rip Curl trips together and we surf with each other all the time so we know each other's surfing. There was a point out there when we heard the beach commentator saying something like, 'Owen is probably hunting and prodding' and Wilko turned around to me and said, 'Don't you dare try and poke or prod me!'"
Wright, who could almost be described as a "local," lives just a 50-minute drive down the coast at Lennox Head and had a lot riding on the heat. Less than two weeks ago he'd been named the "Male Surfer of the Year" at the Australian Surfing Hall of Fame Awards in Sydney, but he's never made it past the third round at the Quiksilver Pro.
"That's been one of the things I've been aiming for, to start off the year well in Australia. I haven't done it yet. I've changed a few things in my preparation and it's going well so far. Winning heats (at Snapper) in front of my family and friends is such a good feeling and it definitely helps my motivation."
Monday's round three of the Quiksilver Pro was split in half with four heats of the Roxy Pro. The women had the high tide conditions, while the first six men's heats scored the incoming tide and the last six had the dropping tide. The girls scored the better conditions. For the past two days, the lower tides have produced barrels at Snapper Rocks but today it was all about busting big moves on the open faces and taking to the air.
Josh Kerr, Taj Burrow, Jordy Smith and Joel Parkinson used the open faces and their aerial repertories to win, while Adrian Ace Buchan defeated John John Florence with his trademark backhand attack. Kelly Slater stayed grounded by surfing the open faces with big drawn out cutbacks and some tight in the pocket surfing. In his opinion, he even said the judges had helped him by throwing down a couple of extra points on one of his waves.
The swell was dying Monday. The push that was evident in the waves over the past two days had gone, with rips and reverse rips breaking up the wave faces during different heights of the tide.
On Sunday, Josh Kerr used hometown knowledge describing which wave to catch but a day later that went out the window for another local, Joel Parkinson who had to scramble for waves.
"I was taking anything that moved!" he said with a laugh, "I was trying to find waves with sections but it was hard. A couple of times I let Yadin (Nicol) go the first one which cleaned up the second wave for me but it was difficult conditions to surf."
Former Australian pro surfer, Jake Paterson is the Quiksilver Pro's contest director this year. He's had an easy job for the first three days with a small southeasterly wind swell to play with but as the swell drops, Paterson's job is getting harder. Four days of onshore northerlies are predicted, so stand by for some potential lay days.QUIKSILVER PRO GOLD COAST ROUND 2 RESULTS:
HEAT 1: Owen Wright (AUS) 14.90 def. Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 14.50
HEAT 2: Josh Kerr (AUS) 15.50 def. Kieren Perrow (AUS) 14.90
HEAT 3: Adriano De Souza (BRA) 14.07 def. Kolohe Andino (USA) 12.74
HEAT 4: Michel Bourez (PYF) 14.36 def. Bede Durbidge (AUS) 10.83
HEAT 5: Heitor Alves (BRA) 15.07 def. Jeremy Flores (FRA) 12.84
HEAT 6: Kelly Slater (USA) 16.36 def. Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 12.40
HEAT 7: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 13.50 def. Yadin Nicol (AUS) 12.27
HEAT 8: Miguel Pupo (BRA) 12.67 def. Mick Fanning (AUS) vs. 11.17
HEAT 9: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 14.83 def. Raoni Monterio (BRA) 12.20
HEAT 10: Julian Wilson (AUS) 18.57 def. Adam Melling (AUS) 15.63
HEAT 11: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 16.03 def. John John Florence (HAW) 13.60
HEAT 12: Taj Burrow (AUS) 14.20 def. Travis Logie (AUS) 13.16
UPCOMING QUIKSILVER PRO GOLD COAST ROUND 4 MATCH-UPS:
HEAT 1: Owen Wright (AUS), Josh Kerr (AUS), Adriano De Souza (BRA)
HEAT 2: Michel Bourez (PYF), Heitor Alves (BRA), Kelly Slater (USA)
HEAT 3: Joel Parkinson (AUS), Miguel Pupo (BRA), Jordy Smith (ZAF)
HEAT 4: Julian Wilson (AUS), Adrian Buchan (AUS) Taj Burrow (AUS)