It was all or nothing at the start of day three. The overhead glassy closeouts at La Graviere were very occasionally interspersed with a makeable corner, resulting in some classy tube rides, and lots of 1.5s.
Taj and Parko showed their class in the early heats by both procuring two high-end scores from an exceedingly tricky lineup, but the first show-stopping moment came from Michel Bourez, who outsprinted a draining right-hand tube, receiving applause from the crowd and a 9.73 from the judges.
One of the stars of Round 3 was the young Brazilian, Felipe Toledo. Though not known for his prowess in the heavy stuff, within seconds of his heat starting Toledo had scraped into a bomb and stood casually as the heaving lip enveloped him. Soon after he took off on a foamy insider and launched a lofty alley-oop to the clean, earning a 9.97.
“I’m super stoked to make that heat, especially with that air and that barrel,” Toledo said. “With the tide coming up I was looking for the barrel and on the first wave I got a really good one. Then it sort of changed and I thought I was going to need to do turns, but that little wave came and I went for the alley-oop air. The Brazilian crew is great, we’re all stoked and have that positive vibe so it’s great to be here in France in warm weather and good waves. I’m feeling confident for the next round.”
Kelly battled through a low scoring affair against the wildcard, Aritz Aranburu. John John made it look easy against Seabass, and Fanning squeezed through against Moroccan barrel hound Ramzi Boukhiam, who sought only a 4.17 to eliminate the world number one.
As the tide pushed up, a controversial call was made to go on hold, and a posse of frothing juniors were thrown in to fill the gap. The wind stayed light and the barrels open, leaving the likes of Leo Fioravanti to pull into an abundance of beautiful backlit kegs. With a dropping swell in the coming days, the decision was criticised by some, and contest director, Miky Picon, seemed to be frustrated by the disparity of opinion among competitors.
As the last heat of King of the Groms exited the water, the main event was promptly given the green light, and Gabriel Medina proceeded to wow spectators with a solid frontside barrel to alley-oop on exit. Purists may grumble, but few can string manoeuvres together with such flow, imagination and apparent ease.
Kai Otton rounded up the day's action in a dramatic Round 4 battle against Parko and Taj. Otton netted two of the highest single-wave scores of the day on two consecutive deep backhand barrels to advance straight into the quarter-finals.
With light levels fading, and webcast viewers blinded by the descending sun, the event was called off for the day. Tomorrow should be smaller, and talk has been spreading about a possible return to the peaks of Penon. Only time will tell.
Remaining Quiksilver Pro France Round 4 Match-ups:
Heat 2: Michel Bourez (PYF), John John Florence (HAW), Mick Fanning (AUS)
Heat 3: Kelly Slater (USA), Filipe Toledo (BRA), Brett Simpson (USA)
Heat 4: Julian Wilson (AUS), Gabriel Medina (BRA),
Round 4 Results:
Heat 1: Kai Otton (AUS) 19.17, Joel Parkinson (AUS) 17.80, Taj Burrow (AUS) 17.50
Round 3 Results:
Heat 1: Taj Burrow (AUS) 13.50 def. Alejo Muniz (BRA) 7.17
Heat 2: Kai Otton (AUS) 7.40 def. Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 4.10
Heat 3: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 15.16 def. Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 8.83
Heat 4: Michel Bourez (PYF) 16.73 def. Kolohe Andino (USA) 9.50
Heat 5: John John Florence (HAW) 15.67 def. Sebastien Zietz (HAW) 10.20
Heat 6: Mick Fanning (AUS) 13.34 def. Ramzi Boukhiam (MAR) 10.67
Heat 7: Kelly Slater (USA) 11.50 def. Aritz Aranburu (EUK) 9.37
Heat 8: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 18.47 def. Jeremy Flores (FRA) 2.67
Heat 9: Brett Simpson (USA) 13.77 def. Adriano De Souza (BRA) 12.16
Heat 10: Julian Wilson (AUS) 15.26 def. Miguel Pupo (BRA) 14.30
Heat 11: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 17.87 def. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 16.40
Heat 12: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 15.17 def. Kieren Perrow (AUS) 11.40