After a slight delay the Quiksilver Pro France (September 26 to October 6) kicked-off in clean 3 to 4 foot A-frames at the backup location of Le Penon.
There is nothing which can be done about mist at a surf event. Judges are rendered blind, making it about as useful as a contest without competitors. "Off you trot boys, score yourselves and let us know who won." Wasn't said at any point, and the comp went on hold for the first few hours.
The surf was pumping in a friendly fashion, France really likes this medium-sized, mid-period swell. And with a few flat days in the forecast Miky Picon made the decision to push on through the low tide and into Round 2, ably assisted by the consistent surf flooding over the French sand. The scores kept flowing and it was often a frenetic Battle Royal with 20 to 30 surfed waves regularly distributed through heats. The judges must have developed neck ache from flicking side-to-side and RSI tapping in endless variations on 7, 8 and 9 points.
With only two more events left this year after France, both title contenders and surfers outside the top 22 consider the Quik Pro to be the start of the sharp end, where season's are won, or lost.
Crucial to any event is the forecast and we are expecting smaller, dropping surf with cross/onshore winds on Friday before a period of very small surf and onshore winds interrupts proceedings. From around Tuesday Oct 1 there is confidence in a new low pressure system with the potential to deliver a solid swell, albeit with a risk of onshore winds.
Jordy Smith dominated Dane Reynolds in a one-way heat which Smith led from start to finish. Netting a 9.70 and a 9.20, the talented South-African racked up the highest total of the event, 18.90 out of 20.
"Dane can do anything at any given time, you don't just beat Dane with excellence, you got to go out there with a strategy," Smith stated. "That's kind of what I did, I waited for the best waves, I've been watching them a lot before the heat. Luckily I made the most of the waves that I had."
Filipe Toledo scored one of the strongest heat totals of the first round, an impressive 17.67 out of 20 for a collection of powerful backside vertical hacks punctuated on his last ride by a huge full rotation.
"I just got a really good left with four or five turns, it was a pretty long wave and I'm so tired," Toledo described. "I'm feeling good after Lowers where I had a great heat with Julian, I come here with confidence and the waves were really fun and long !"
Kelly Slater had his back against the ropes in his Round 1 encounter with Adam Melling and Dane Reynolds and failed to find excellent scoring opportunities for most of the 30-minute exchange. With only seconds on the clock, Slater found a cleaner, longer left with more verticality and dismantled every section of the wave to earn a near-perfect 9.23 out of a possible 10.
"Jeez it was a slow one, in all the rotation Adam had priority," Slater stated. "There only was one good wave on the sets and he kept picking them. That last one I got was actually a little funny cause he could have caught the wave, but there was kind of a flatness and a wedge in between him and I and he would have been behind the foamball where I was taking off. I couldn't believe it when I saw him stop paddling, I looked down the line and it had such a clean face, it was fun !"
Jeremy Flores pleased the massive French crowds assembled on the water's edge this afternoon, when he won his first heat collecting a two-wave total of 16.23. Suffering from an ankle injury sustained only a few days ago, Flores battled the pain and selected the best opportunities out in the lineup taking full advantage of his extensive local knowledge.
"It's pretty painful but the heat is only 30 minute so I could deal with the pain for half an hour I guess," Flores said. "Now It looks like there won't be any swell for a little while so this is great for me, I can have some time off and try to heal quicker. I seriously wasn't expecting to surf like that, it's funny what the brain is capable of, like dealing with this pain. I'm really happy and feel realy lucky."
Taj Burrow, current World No.4 was the first surfer to exploit the Northern end of the competition area and chase the long running lefthanders. Burrows then applied his usual powerful backhand on the clean faces to net three scores in the excellent range and logically advance into the third round.
"There's lots of waves out there, I even had a left to myself which is pretty awesome," Burrow said. "I was very happy with that, I got to catch a couple fun lefts and do some backhand turns. The other boys were on the right and they got some good scores too, Marc got an 8 and Bede got an 8.9 which was the best wave of the heat, so it ended up being pretty close but I was pretty happy to win."
The biggest surprise today came at the hands of up-and-coming Moroccan Ramzi Boukhiam, who relegated current World No.3 Jordy Smith to the second round of competition. Boukhiam, a former invitee at the Quiksilver Pro France who eliminated Joel Parkinson in the second round in 2011 made great use of his replacement spot in the event again and will look to lock-in another strong heat in the third round.
"I'm super happy I had a lot of fun !" Boukhiam commented. "I had a last-minute call from Micky Picon who told me I had a spot in the event, so I came here on the first plane from Bali. I was against some of the best surfers in the world, but no pressure. I'm just going to try and keep going like this, I've been looking up to those guys since I'm super young and now that I'm getting older I want to try and beat them !"
Event organisers and surfers will reconvene tomorrow morning at 7:30am local time to re-assess conditions.
REMAINING QUIKSILVER PRO FRANCE ROUND 2 MATCHUPS:
Heat 6: C.J Hobgood (USA) vs Alejo Muniz (BRA)
Heat 7: Michel Bourez (PYF) vs Damien Hobgood (USA)
Heat 8: Nat Young (USA) vs Brett Simpson (USA)
Heat 9: Kai Otton (AUS) vs Adam Melling (AUS)
Heat 10: John John Florence (HAW) vs Matt Wilkinson (AUS)
Heat 11: Sebastien Zietz (HAW) vs Bede Durbidge (AUS)
Heat 12: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs Travis Logie (ZAF)
QUIKSILVER PRO FRANCE ROUND 2 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Mick Fanning (AUS) 15.43 def. Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 8.00
Heat 2: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 18.90 def. Dane Reynolds (USA) 12.00
Heat 3: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 16.50 def. Marc Lacomare (FRA) 15.90
Heat 4: Aritz Aranburu (EUK) 15.50 def. Josh Kerr (AUS) 14.47
Heat 5: Adriano De Souza (BRA) 17.66 def. Yadin Nicol (AUS) 15.06
QUIKSILVER PRO FRANCE ROUND 1 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Kieren Perrow (AUS) 15.27, Travis Logie (ZAF) 13.00, Josh Kerr (AUS) 9.43
Heat 2: Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 14.77, Joel Parkinson (AUS) 12.80, Aritz Aranburu (EUK) 9.83
Heat 3: Taj Burrow (AUS) 16.80, Bede Durbidge (AUS) 15.17, Marc Lacomare (FRA) 13.60
Heat 4: Ramzi Boukhiam (MAR) 13.67, Jordy Smith (ZAF) 13.50, Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 7.50
Heat 5: Kelly Slater (USA) 16.76, Adam Melling (AUS) 15.40, Dane Reynolds (USA) 8.50
Heat 6: Kolohe Andino (USA) 17.40, Mick Fanning (AUS) 13.86, Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 13.67
Heat 7: Julian Wilson (AUS) 15.23, Gabriel Medina (BRA) 15.07, Yadin Nicol (AUS) 10.10
Heat 8: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 17.67, Adriano De Souza (BRA) 15.16, Alejo Muniz (BRA) 11.70
Heat 9: Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 16.17, C.J Hobgood (USA) 15.33, Sebastien Zietz (HAW) 15.26
Heat 10: Miguel Pupo (BRA) 15.34, John John Florence (HAW) 13.47, Michel Bourez (PYF) 11.43
Heat 11: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 16.23, Nat Young (USA) 12.20, Damien Hobgood (USA) 12.13
Heat 12: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 15.90, Kai Otton (AUS) 13.67, Brett Simpson (USA) 12.06