Supertubos delivered some major upsets as current world title contenders, Kelly Slater and Gabriel Medina, were eliminated by Aritz Aranburu and Brett Simpson in their round three bouts. Medina’s early exit ends his chances of claiming the world surfing crown in Portugal, pushing the title race to the final event in Hawaii.
The day ran through round two and ten heats of round three, in five-to-eight foot barrels. Along with Slater and Medina, Joel Parkinson was knocked out of the competition during the third round by Adam Melling, ruining Parkinson’s chances of a second world title this season.
[pullquote]Medina’s misjudgement cost him the round, but he looks forward to Hawaii where he still has a chance to claim the world title[/pullquote]
Simpson took the surprise win over Medina by less than a point, with a final score of 12.50 to Medina’s 12.06. With just minutes left on the clock, Medina had the chances to take down Simpson, but left the water after his final wave, before the time ran out, thinking he had taken the win. Simpson’s victory marks the second time this year that he has made it past round two, it could also give him the crucial points he needs to be considered for re-qualification next season.
“For me, after having a pretty bad year, this is a nice heat to win,” said Simpson. “I’m stoked and really happy. I always wanted to surf a lot of heats out here and now that’s finally started happening.”
Medina’s misjudgement cost him the round, but he looks forward to Hawaii where he still has a chance to claim the world title: “I’m pretty sad with this result, but I got happier when Kelly lost. I was ready to win the title here, but now I’m focused on Hawaii. I’m happy that I’m still in the title race and I know it doesn’t depend on the other title contenders, it depends on me. I don’t know yet what I need to do, but I will prepare and train and be ready.”
Heat seven of round three delivered the next huge shock of the day when Aranburu bested Slater — who will leave Portugal with his second 13th place of the year. Aranburu opened with confidence, taking the lead over the current world No. 2 thanks to two clean barrel rides — logging a 12.00 heat total. Slater was left searching for a seven-point ride, but struggled to find his rhythm and was unable to obtain the scores he needed, allowing Aranburu to take the win.
“It’s so hard to compete against Kelly, he’s the best of all time,” Aranburu said. “I always take it as an opportunity and this time it worked out. I’m so stoked right now. I think both of us had a lot of pressure, him for the world title and me for the re-qualification, and it was such an important heat. I’ve really enjoyed this year on tour and I’m taking it heat-by-heat and hoping to make a good result”
he went out there yesterday when no one else went out and he got an eight-foot bomb[/pullquote]
Although Slater was unable to capitalise on Medina’s loss, he remains in contention to claim his 12th World Title in Hawaii.
“It’s hard to pick the right waves out here,” said Slater. “I knew Aritz was a tough guy to draw, he went out there yesterday when no one else went out and he got an eight-foot bomb and got barrelled all the way across the beach. He is dangerous in barrels and I didn’t underestimate him at all. The wave he got was the wave of the heat, and it would have been mine if I hadn’t chosen the way I did. This is probably one of my most frustrating title races ever because I keep feeling that I have the opportunity and each time I keep dropping the ball.”
John John Florence delivered the performance of the day during his round three heat against Dion Atkinson. Florence, building momentum from his earlier win against wildcard Nic Von Rupp, scored the highest two-wave heat total of the day, and the first perfect 10 of the event — for an air-dropped into a bomb and slid under the thick lip only to get spat out further down the sand-bank.
“I’ve been nervous all day for some reason,” said Florence. “These last couple of days I’ve been surfing a lot, the waves have been so much fun and yesterday was my birthday so we surfed all day long. That 10 was really cool. I was paddling into it telling myself to not fall on the drop, I got up and in the end it was a round and perfect wave and I was super stoked.
Florence has given some phenomenal performances in recent events, finishing third in Tahiti, runner-up at Trestels, and claiming victory in France. He is mathematically in the title race, and with the surprise eliminations of Medina and Slater, he has the opportunity to capitalise big.
Adam Melling was given a free pass into round three, following unfortunate withdrawal of C.J. Hobgood, who suffered a foot injury during the morning free surf.
However, Melling went on to eliminate Joel Parkinson during round three, ending his hopes of a second world title. Melling took some average scores early, and kept trying to build his lead, while Parkinson hunted for a high seven-pointer. Melling’s approached allowed him to take the lead, securing the win with one last good righthander. Parkinson leaves in 25th place, his first of the season.
“I was pretty happy to get through round three,” said Melling. “It was a bummer for C.J. Hobgood, it sucks getting injured so that’s really bad and unfortunate for him. It’s in to a no-loser round next, so I can just go for it. Hopefully we get some really good waves, and it looks like we’re going to, and we can get some good barrels.”
Current ASP World No. 3, Mick Fanning, remains in the competition after beating wildcard Jacob Wilcox in round two. Fanning wasted no time, finding a clean barrel on his forehand logging an 8.50 to take the lead. He then backed up his score with a near-perfect 9.43. The win sees him move on to the third round where he will face Alejo Muniz when competition resumes.
“I’m pretty excited to compete in these conditions this morning,” said Fanning. “I got down here and it was still so dark so I couldn’t see anything. I just threw my wetsuit on and went out and when I got out there I saw some crazy ones, it was pretty exciting. I had to come in before my heat, regroup and go back out there, and I’m stoked that I got a couple of good waves.”
Words Louis Hall @LHall69