ASP Round 1 Update: The Fiji Pro is officially ON!

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posted by James Willmott

After days of being postponed, promised swell has finally delivered ready for the top 34 male surfers in the world to hit the waters of the infamous reef Cloudbreak, on the islands of Fiji.  Surfers have been on the islands for a week plus, surfing fun friendly waves, though now it’s finally time for the serious hats to be put on and Stop Number 5 of the ASP World Championship Tour to begin. For the first day of competition, Cloudbreak has delivered 3-4 foot of swell and although the windy conditions are obvious, this won’t stop the world’s best throwing everything out there in hopes of taking to the title. The Fiji leg is always interesting as competiveness goes outside the water and hits the 2 islands of accomodation, with the top 34 battling in table tennis, basketball and even gym workouts. Perhaps it’s an unwritten intimidation method to try psyche the other competitors out, or perhaps just a bit of fun.

rainbowfijiNot exactly the worst place to be. Fiji showing what its got! – photo by ASP

As the call was made, Brazil’s Adriano de Souza, Kai Otton and Tiago Piriz were drawn to hit the water first in Round 1, Heat 1. Otton, the Australian, was first to put points on the board in the strong offshore conditions, placing a few mid range scores. De Souza followed suit through an array of turns on the fast breaking walls of Cloudbreak, also impressing judges. Tiago Piris struggled to find his placement and through the first half of the heat did not post score. Eventually he gained a few small scores though it was no match for Otton and de Souza who stayed busy for the majority of the Heat, eventually resulting in the Brazilian taking out the first heat of competition with a combination of 6.17 and 5.73.

Heat 2 saw an in form Michel Bourez battle American Brett Simpson and Brazilian Filipe Toledo. Though Simpson would strike first through a powerful display of backhand turns and snaps, Margaret River and Rio Champion Michel Bourez quickly became part of the picture. While Bourez started his campaign strong with a 8.83, the young Brazilian, Toledo, also struck with a 6.23. Though Simpson wowed spectators and judges through his ability to navigate the windy conditions, it was Bourez who continued his hot streak winning the Heat and advancing directly into Round 3.

“I feel like I need a lot of waves to have more options and more opportunities,” said Bourez. “That happened at Margaret River and Rio and I hope it happens here.”

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 Michel Bourez in his opening Round 1 campaign – photo by ASP

Fred Patacchia came up against Coolie kid Mick Fanning and other Aussie countryman Glenn Hall. The reigning 3 time World Champion blasted his opening Fijian campaign with a strong score of 8.60 with an excellent performance on his backhand. The Hawaiian was not intimidated, as the goofy footer slotted in some mid range scores before getting the first barrel of competition followed by a large hack, enough to take the lead. Hall managed to gain few points, with Fanning and Pataccia leading the Heat, and although Fanning had a late chance of victory, it was Pataccia to take Heat 3 and knock the Australians to elimination Round 2.

An all Australian Heat was next with Mitch Coleborn, Adrian Buchan and tour veteran Taj Burrow ready to attack the line up at Cloudbreak.Though many thought Burrow would have the competitive advantage, it was infact up and comer Coleborn who impressed judges by tearing apart the open faces of Cloudbreak with his perfect style and grace. Buchan put up a good fight for the win, though Coleborn proved too strong for his competition.

“First Round Cloudbreak has been good to me so far,” Coleborn said. “I feel really at home here, I only just found out that I was in the event, I bailed from Indonesia and after a couple of Lay-Days I made it here in time.”

Joel Parkinson, Mitch Crews and wildcard Wiggolly Dantas were next in the water in Heat 5 of the Men’s Fiji Pro. All surfers opened their campaigns in the up holding conditions, though it was Fiji event veteran Joel Parkinson who secured the first solid score of 7.83. The up and comers could not match the veterans performance, as Parkinson advanced directly to Round 3 through his navigation of barrels and powerful carves, pushing Crews and Dantas to Round 2.

Kelly Slater was next up against Jeremy Flores and local Fijian lad Isei Tokovou. Tokovou won the trial event, allowing him to compete against the world’s best surfers in his own backyard. Kelly is known for his great past performances at Cloudbreak winning 4 Times, and is yet again one of the favourites for this years competition. The 11 Time World Champion did not leave audiences hanging, delivering the goods and showing a dominant, exciting display of surfing. After already throwing out powerful backhand turns for a score of 7.17, he immediately backed up with a spectacular backhand barrel, sneaking out before the doggy door pinched for a score of 7.67. As the heat continued, Slater continued with a 8.83. Kelly currently leads the WCT rankings, and another good performance in Fiji could put him closer to achieving a unprecedented 12th World Title.

KellyFiji2013Will Slater repeat performances like this unforgettable wave in the 2013 event? – photo by ASP

Flores and Tokovou still managed to get some small scores on the board, though were pushed to Round 2 after Slater’s early lead. The local support for Tokovou was clearly evident, with live webcasts from ASP showing supporting spectators and staff members on the island of Tavarua and even though he has been pushed to Round 2, surely it is not a result to not be disappointed with.

Gabriel Medina, Kolohe Andino and Dion Atkinson were next to go head to head in Heat 7 of Round 1 of the Fiji Pro 2014. Medina opened right as the buzzer begun the Heat, gaining a 3.33 through some strong turns, though failed to conclude the wave with a roundhouse cutback.  As the Heat progressed, Medina proved too strong for the American and Australian, posting a combination score of 13.44 and moving directly through to Round 3, while the others would have one more chance to prove themselves in Round 2.

“It’s important to make it through Round 1,” Medina said. “It’s windy and hard out there, I don’t know what my scores were, but I just tried to get two good ones. Last year was tough losing early, but two years ago I had a good result and hopefully I can do well here again.”

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 Gabriel Medina during Heat 7 – photo by ASP

As the wind continued to howl through the day, conditions surprisingly decided to hold up, rewarding Josh Kerr immediately after the Heat 8 started. The Australian posted a small score of 4.33 through a mix of turns and carves, finding his rhythm early. Zietz fought back with a competitive minor score, though it was Alejo Muniz who scored a 6.50 on his opening ride, who lead the start of the Heat.  Zietz continued to show hunger and produced a 8 point ride, proving too good for Kerr and Muniz and progressed through to Round 3.

“It’s really windy out there,” Zietz said. “I thought I was in the spot, but it didn’t quite work out at the start. Luckily for me there was a lot of waves in the second half of the heat and I was able to claw my way out.

Barrel opportunities became more and more obvious as the tide at Cloudbreak continued to drop for the afternoon Heats. Heat 9 saw an in form Jordy Smith battle Miguel Pupo and Aritz Aranburu. Though Pupo and Aranburu had good wave selection, it was South African Jordy Smith who maintained the lead through consistant backhand barrel to turn combinations, resulting in an impressive 17.13 overall. Smith advanced, pushing Miguel Pupo and Aritz Aranburu to decide their fate in elimination Round 2.

Heat 10 of the first round of competition continued with strong winds and bumpy conditions for competitors. This time, it was Aussies Owen Wright and Matt Wilkinson up against American Nat Young. Though conditions were challenging and at times inconsistent, this did not stop the three putting it all out there and going for the win. Wright managed to scrape together a score of 6.67 in the windy 3-4 foot conditions, while Hobgood and Wilkinson struggled at times, though managed to gain some mid range scores. All in all, it was Wright who secured the lead in the final few minutes and proved worthy of a Round 3 ticket.

owenfijiOwen Wright during his successful Round 1 Heat – photo by ASP

Julian Wilson, Bede Durbidge and Brazil’s Jadson Andre were in the water next, while Cloudbreak continued to drain and provide some low tide, punchy wave opportunities. Wilson came out guns blazing, gaining a 7.50 and a 6.50 within the first 10 minutes of the buzzer sounding. Durbidge and Andre locked in some competitive scores through turns and hacks, though were unable to catch Julian’s early lead.

John John Florence, Australia’s Travis Logie and veteran C.J. Hobgood hit the razor sharp reef break for the final Heat of Day 1 competition. Conditions were on the rise after a fairly wind effected day of performances, an aspect the Hawaiian young gun took full advantage of. Florence opened his Heat 12 campaign by scoring an impressive 6.67. While he continued to attack the lip and look for air or big snap opportunities, Hobgood and Logie were hunting the fierce forehand barrels. C.J. saw a promising opportunity in the final few seconds, however was pinched while exiting a barrel, causing the wave to be scored incomplete and allowing the Hawaiian to take out the Heat.

The swell is predicted to stay similar for a few days, so lets all pray for bigger conditions towards the final rounds. That’s the wrap up from the first day of competition at Stop Number 5 of the ASP Samsung Galaxy World Championship Tour, hosted by the beautiful pristine islands of Fiji.

Get behind your favourite surfers and keep up to date with all the latest news from the Fiji Pro here at the Surfstitch Blog or watch it live at aspworldtour.com. Remember to hash tag #FijiPro to show the crew on tour where and how you are watching the contest for an opportunity to get a shoutout! For all Day 1 highlights, check out the video below!