The coverage of the Fiji started long before the competitions did, with footage streaming out across the Internet of barrels being tucked into before the vests were even unpacked.
Stop No. 5 of the 2016 Samsung Galaxy WSL Championship Tour was an opportunity for the competitors to play, with Fiji’s famous reefs giving the surfers a veritable playground of water walls to climb and barrels to hide in; a perfect place for Taj Burrows to say goodbye, for wildcard Bethany Hamilton to make a come-back on the world tour and for Medina to win his first event on the 2016 tour. You could sense the excitement.
Medina was the one to come out on top in the Men’s Competition against JEEP WSL front-runner, Matt Wilkinson.
The Australian had shown great form throughout the competition, having busted out John John in the quarterfinals but was put in a combination situation after a badly positioned paddle mission and a double tube-riding combo by Medina.
There’s not much one can do once Medina’s played tubes like a boss then kicked out with a 7.33 and 8.27. This win rocketed the Brazilian to No. 2 in the rankings.
Adrian Buchan eliminated three-time WSL champion, Mick Fanning during the quarter finals but had a hard fight in the semis, spending the majority of his heat duck-diving white water. But his silver lining came in the result catapulting him from 15th place to 7th.
The ‘computer’ in Slater’s brain also started working again during his heats after having had his worst start to a tour in years. With the much-needed boost, Kelly’s likely to bust a comeback down at J-Bay but we all know that’s not what the surfers are going to be worried about.
In the Women’s Fiji Pro competition, It was a the silent but deadly Johanne Defay who took the win, rising through the heats almost unnoticed as Carissa Moore and Laura Enever bagged themselves perfect 10 scores.
But having grown up on Reunion Island, Johanne learned her surfing on perfect left-hand reefs just like Cloudbreak and this experience showed as the finals got underway.
She may have got there quietly, but she was hardly delicate with her manoeuvres and her home-break style was obvious. She was comfortable in these waves and rode them to cause maximum damage.
Of course it was wildcard, Bethany who indisputably stole the show in this contest. The husband and son of the world’s most famous surfer watched from the boat as Bethany tackled 6ft Cloudbreak and drew lines that no other surfer found.
Having surfed Teahupoo whilst pregnant with their first child, Bethany could handle anything Fiji threw at her and she finished in 3rd place.
This event had a different feel to it; the surfers were surfing with true soul. Some with winning agenda’s, all with determination, but the relief that the ocean had given them waves saw everyone breathe a sigh of relief and made the grins big and bold.
Stop No. 6 on the 2016 Samsung Galaxy World Championship Tour is J-Bay, and although there are always surprises, let’s just hope it’s not another bloody shark.
Also running as an extra competition outside of the competition was the Fiji GoPro Challenge. When they weren’t surfing in heats, competitors kept busy competing for the $10,000 prize that was on offer during the waiting period.
Head over to the World Surf League to see the best.
Here is Bethany Hamilton back in the breach for the challenge.