HOSSEGOR, France (Saturday, September 20, 2008) - Eight of the ASP World Tour's Top 10 surfers were sent to Round 2 of the Quiksilver Pro France today. Two of them are out of Quiksilver Pro contention after losing their elimination round heats held late this afternoon.
Reigning ASP World Champion and current World No. 5 Mick Fanning (AUS) came into the Quiksilver Pro France as the defending event champion - he will leave with his second 33rd place result of the year. Fanning was beaten by less than a point by injury replacement surfer and former Top 45 surfer Gabe Kling (USA) in shifty conditions.
"Mick has been one of my favorite surfers and I can't really believe that happened," Kling said. "It was so hard out there and him needing that small of score… I just got lucky but I'll take it. I'm stoked to win though, he's a reigning world champion."
Joel Parkinson (AUS), World No. 4, was also beaten in Round 2. He lost to Tahitian wildcard Michel Bourez, the same surfer who eliminated eight-time ASP World Champion Kelly Slater (USA) from the Quiksilver Pro last year.
Slater's Round 1 heat was won by wildcard Joan Duru. His Round 2 heat was nearly won by wildcard Tim Boal (FRA). Slater trailed for much of his Round 2 bout with Boal, but he came back at the end of the heat and then sealed the deal with a last-minute 9.00.
"I felt alright in that heat but all day something has been off, I'm not sure what it is," Slater said. "I had a feeling Tim was going to get a score, even before he got that first good one - I had a feeling was going to get a score and get back in the heat. He was patient and just sat waiting for the rights. It's the wildcards and the low seeds that have been giving me trouble all year. I have to look out more for those guys than the top guys it seems like."
Slater, like many of the top seeded surfers who lost heats today, said that the shifting, unpredictable nature of France's beach breaks are a huge factor in making heats in Hossegor. Even Andy Irons, the Top 45 surfer who has fared the best in France over the years, was sent to Round 2 today. He meets Jihad Kohdr (BRA) in Heat 6.
"This is a tough place for a contest," Slater said. "It's really amazing that Andy won this contest three times and got a second the year before that because the waves change so much and it really is the luck of the draw out in those heats. The guy who gets the best waves is going to win and it happens a lot here at this contest."
Slater admitted that the opportunity to clinch his ninth ASP World Title in France (should he win the event and his closest competitors bow out soon) was toying with his nerves and might have been a factor in his having to surf Round 2 today.
"It probably just has my head a little bit - thinking about it," Slater said. "It's hard to get that monkey off your back, thinking you had the chance to do something like that. I guess I have been thinking about it a little bit over the last week and I just haven't gotten in sync so far. That heat I felt pretty good, still not great, but I got a couple of good scores - those lefts panned out for me and allowed me to get a couple big moves."
World No. 3 Bede Durbidge (AUS) scraped through the last heat of the day - Heat 4 of Round 2. Only he and Taj Burrow (AUS) are mathematically capable of keeping Slater from clinching in France should he win the event.
Burrow was the only Top 5 surfer to win his Round 1 heat today - he enjoyed the afternoon off after beating Tim Reyes (USA) and Boal earlier in the day.
"A few red singlets have lost today because the conditions are so difficult," Taj said. "The tide changes so much here that you really just have to go out there and take what you are dealt, so I was just trying to pick the right waves and put up a couple of good scores. I didn't do anything amazing but I got a couple."
Burrow comes into the Quiksilver Pro France fresh off a final berth in California. Burrow led most of that final but suffered a last minute loss to Slater and had to settle for second. The loss was especially difficult given it significantly decreased any hope the current World No. 2 had of winning the 2009 ASP World Title.
"That was a hard one to swallow," Burrow said. "Kelly has pretty much won the title, mathematically it's next to impossible to catch him, so I'm just trying to win a few events."
Kieren Perrow (AUS) was awarded a unanimous perfect 10 for a deep barrel followed by a big free-fall floater in Round 1. Perrow competed on the ASP World Tour from 2001 to 2004 before requalifying this year. His perfect 10 previous to today's was earned in Tahiti in 2001.
"That wave was just perfect," Perrow said. "I could see it was going to double-up when I paddled over that second one. I haven't had a 10 in years so it was good to get barreled and get one. The wave was so good anyone would have got a 10 on it."
Perrow forced Fanning into Round 2 with the ride, but just barely.
"When I heard that I got a 10 I still thought I'd be in second," Perrow said. "I still thought I'd need a score because they hadn't read out my 5.0 and I only thought I had a 3.5. Even then it was pretty close still, Mick didn't need much and he was right behind me. It would have been disappointing to get a 10 and lose."
The next call on competition status will be made tomorrow morning at 7:30. It is looking likely that Round 2 will resume at Les Estagnots again tomorrow.
The Quiksilver Pro France will be webcast LIVE via www.quiksilverlive.com
Quiksilver Pro France Round 2 Results:
Heat 1: Kelly Slater (USA) 17.67 def. Tim Boal (FRA) 15.00
Heat 2: Gabe Kling (USA) 12.07 def. Mick Fanning (AUS) 11.00
Heat 3: Michel Bourez (PYF) 14.00 def. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 12.67
Heat 4: Bede Durbidge (AUS) 12.00 def. Nic Muscroft (AUS) 9.44
Quiksilver Pro France Round 1 Results:
Heat 1: Ben Dunn (AUS) 12.84, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 10.06, Leonardo Neves (BRA) 8.6
Heat 2: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 17.13, Jay Thompson (AUS) 15.2, Daniel Ross (AUS) 10.1
Heat 3: Roy Powers (HAW) 13.6, Adriano de Souza (BRA) 13.56, Aritz Aranburu (EUK) 11.9
Heat 4: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 16.97, Jihad Khodr (BRA) 6.63, Andy Irons (HAW) 2.34
Heat 5: Taylor Knox (USA) 13.67, Bobby Martinez (USA) 13.40, Ricky Basnett (ZAF) 5.83
Heat 6: Tom Whitaker (AUS) 15.50, Nic Muscroft (AUS) 13.84, Bede Durbidge (AUS) 11.50
Heat 7: Dane Reynolds (USA) 15.16, Joel Parkinson (AUS) 14.60, Michel Bourez (PYF) 9.30
Heat 8: Joan Duru (FRA) 10.50, Kelly Slater (USA) 9.94, Chris Ward (USA) 9.90
Heat 9: Taj Burrow (AUS) 16.67, Tim Reyes (USA) 11.50, Tim Boal (FRA) 5.77
Heat 10: Kieren Perrow (AUS) 15.00, Mick Fanning (AUS) 14.40, Gabe Kling (USA) 13.5
Heat 11: Travis Logie (ZAF) 13.94, Kai Otton (AUS) 10.67, Mikael Picon (FRA) 10.34
Heat 12: Daniel Wills (AUS) 16.17, Heitor Alves (BRA) 4.74, Bruce Irons (HAW) 2.77
Heat 13: Rodrigo Dornelles (BRA) 13.80, Luke Stedman (AUS) 12.83, Damien Hobgood (USA) 12.10
Heat 14: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 15.16, Tiago Pires (PRT) 12.63, Mick Campbell (AUS) 12.10
Heat 15: Pancho Sullivan (HAW) 14.50, Ben Bourgeois (USA) 14.30, Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 9.44
Heat 16: Dayyan Neve (AUS) 15.66, Royden Bryson (ZAF) 13.34, Luke Munro (AUS) 7.76