Oahu’s Florence advances to Pipe Masters fourth round, keeps world title hopes alive

Reigning World Champion and World No.1 on the Jeep Leaderboard John John Florence of Hawaii advances to Round Four of the 2017 Billabong Pipe Masters after winning Heat 6 of Round Three at Pipe, Oahu, Hawaii, USA.

The Billabong Pipe Masters in Memory of Andy Irons completed Rounds 2 and 3 today in four-to-six foot (1.2 – 1.8 metre) conditions at the world famous Banzai Pipeline. The North Shore saw nail-biting match-ups as both requalification for the Championship Tour (CT) and the World Title are on the line at this event. Today’s battle to stay on tour was also accompanied by retiring athletes, Bede Durbidge (AUS) and Josh Kerr (AUS), surfing their last heats as full-time CT competitors, as well as Conner O’Leary (AUS) earning the Rookie of the Year honors.

After a full day of competition at the Billabong Pipe Masters, the final stop on the 2017 World Surf League (WSL) CT and the capstone event of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing (VTCS), there are now only two surfers in contention to win the WSL Title: John John Florence (HAW) and Gabriel Medina (BRA).

World Title scenarios after elimination Round 3 of the Billabong Pipe Masters:
– If Florence gets 1st or 2nd at Pipe he will clinch the World Title;
– If Florence gets a 3rd, Medina will need a1st at Pipe to win the World Title;
– If Florence gets a 5th, Medina will need a1st at Pipe to win the World Title;
– If Florence gets a 9th, Medina will need a 2nd 

With Florence advancing out of Round 3 today, Australia’s Julian Wilson will not be able to clinch the World Title this season. Despite not being able to take home the World Surfing crown at this event, the 2014 Pipe Master set the bar in Round 3 with the day’s highest single-wave score, a near-perfect 9.93 (out of a possible 10), to defeat rookie Ezekiel Lau (HAW).

“That was a sweet wave, any day of the week,” commented Wilson of his 9.93 ride. “That was such a beautiful wave, definitely the best wave that came in through the heat and just got really lucky to be in right spot without priority. I was trying to keep my distance from Zeke (Lau). Whether he wanted to go deep or wide, I was going to swap with him because I didn’t have priority, but that wave came to me before I really had to think about it and I just had a few pumps through it and went as fast as I could and got spat out, such a nice feeling.”

Wilson’s 15.26 combined score (out of a possible 20) forced Lau into a combination situation that he was not able to overcome. Lau will exit with an Equal 13th place result and is safe for a sophomore year on tour after ending within the Top 10 on the Qualifying Series during the Vans World Cup at Sunset Beach.

In the final heat of the day, World Title hopeful Jordy Smith (ZAF) went against 11x World Champion Kelly Slater (USA) and suffered a disappointing loss and early elimination to ultimately lose his chance for the World Championship. Smith scored a 7.00 on his opening ride for early domination in Round 3 Heat 12, however Slater’s positioning was on-point and he was able to score two rides, a 6.70 and 5.17, under priority to overtake Smith.

“Jordy (Smith), he was really sitting deep, behind the boils, behind the deep spots,” said Slater.”It really separates into two waves so I knew he was giving me enough space to find a little sneaky one at Aints. He just was a little too deep and I saw a set coming and I didn’t see him move and I looked at the corner of my eye thinking, ‘Is he really not coming over here?’ That one I almost missed it, but that was my 6. Not a high scoring heat, nothing special, but for what was out there I did alright.”

Current Jeep Frontrunner Florence barely escaped elimination Round 3 against 2017 CT rookie Ethan Ewing (AUS) in one of the tightest heats of the day. The 2016 WSL Champion held the lead for most of the exchange, but the rookie fought back to only need a 4.67 to advance through and end Florence’s World Title hopes. With just seconds left on the clock, fans held their breath as Ewing pulled into a Backdoor barrel and completed a critical maneuver on a closeout, however, he fell just short after judges gave the ride a 4.60. With the final combined scores coming down to 10.87 and 10.80, Florence will advance through to Round 4 and keep his back-to-back World Title hopes alive.

“Definitely a crazy, close heat,” Florence said. “Ethan (Ewing) is such a great surfer. Winning heats like that, it’s such a weird one. It ends up being so close. I’m obviously super stoked to keep going in this event. But that was really hard out there. It’s tough to find the good ones. I mean, it’s beautiful and there are good waves coming through but it’s hard to find them.”

Medina also had a close match-up against CT veteran Josh Kerr (AUS) in Round 3 Heat 8. Medina wove his way out of tight barrels and threw up massive air attempts for a 10.00 two-wave score and managed to narrowly escape elimination by Kerr, who garnered a 9.83 heat total.

“It was hard to find the good ones,” said Medina. “I’m stoked to get the win, that was a tough one. I still have a shot, feels great, I’m feeling good. I think God is on my side. Now it’s just to trust, believe, and just go for it.”

For more information, check out WorldSurfLeague.com.

Billabong Pipe Masters Round 2 Results:
Heat 1:
Gabriel Medina (BRA) 15.33 def. Dusty Payne (HAW) 8.50
Heat 2: Ethan Ewing (AUS) 11.54 def. Owen Wright (AUS) 10.77
Heat 3: Julian Wilson (AUS) 8.56 def. Benji Brand (HAW) 6.87
Heat 4: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) def. Stuart Kennedy (AUS) INJ
Heat 5: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 11.93 def. Jadson Andre (BRA) 8.33
Heat 6: Kolohe Andino (USA) 17.10 def. Jack Freestone (AUS) 14.96
Heat 7: Ian Gouveia (BRA) 13.40 def. Filipe Toledo (BRA) 11.30
Heat 8: Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 13.17 def. Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 10.00
Heat 9: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 6.10 def. Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 5.13
Heat 10: Mick Fanning (AUS) 8.90 def. Bede Durbidge (AUS) 8.87
Heat 11: Kanoa Igarashi (USA) 12.67 def. Frederico Morais (PRT) 6.00
Heat 12: Michel Bourez (PYF) 16.40 def. Joan Duru (FRA) 6.54

Billabong Pipe Masters Round 3 Results:
Heat 1: 
Julian Wilson (AUS) 15.26 def. Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 8.34
Heat 2: Conner Coffin (USA) 14.03 def. Mick Fanning (AUS) 12.60
Heat 3: Ian Gouveia (BRA) 8.60 def. Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 6.83
Heat 4: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 8.50 def. Miguel Pupo (BRA) 5.47
Heat 5: Caio Ibelli (BRA) 10.13 def. Michel Bourez (PYF) 6.57
Heat 6: John John Florence (HAW) 10.87 def. Ethan Ewing (AUS) 10.80
Heat 7: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 6.60 def. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 2.26
Heat 8: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 10.00 def. Josh Kerr (AUS) 9.83
Heat 9: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 10.26 def. Kolohe Andino (USA) 4.17
Heat 10: Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 15.87 def. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 6.13
Heat 11: Kanoa Igarashi (USA) 13.34 def. Connor O’Leary (AUS) 9.73
Heat 12: Kelly Slater (USA) 11.87 def. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 7.87

Billabong Pipe Masters Round 4 Match-Ups:
Heat 1:
Julian Wilson (AUS), Conner Coffin (USA), Ian Gouveia (BRA)
Heat 2: Joel Parkinson (AUS), Caio Ibelli (BRA), John John Florence (HAW)
Heat 3: Jeremy Flores (FRA), Gabriel Medina (BRA), Italo Ferreira (BRA)
Heat 4: Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA), Kanoa Igarashi (USA), Kelly Slater (USA)

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