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High Drama for WSL Title Showdown at Billabong Pipe Masters

December 17th, 2015
Jordy Smith (ZAF) in action at Pipeline. Photo: WSL / Cestari

Jordy Smith (ZAF) in action at Pipeline. Photo: WSL / Cestari

– Toledo & Wilson Eliminated; Fanning, De Souza & Medina Remain in Hunt
– South Africa’s Jordy Smith Eliminated in Round 3
– Massive Surf Sees Perfect Performances & Punishing Injuries
– Forecast Indicates Explosive Season Finale for Thursday

BANZAI PIPELINE, Oahu/Hawaii (Wednesday, December 16, 2015) – A phenomenal day of the world’s best surfers battling solid eight-to-ten foot (2.5 – 3 metre) waves at the Banzai Pipeline has whittled the WSL Title contenders down to three and the Billabong Pipe Masters contenders down to nine, setting up an epic finish to the 2015 season on Thursday.

The final stop of the 2015 Samsung Galaxy WSL Championship Tour season as well as the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing (a WSL Specialty Series) and the Billabong Pipe Masters in Memory of Andy Irons enjoyed a marathon day of competition, witnessing perfect scores and terrifying injuries from the world’s best surfers.

The World Title race is now down to three competitors as current Jeep Rankings’ Leader Mick Fanning (AUS), Adriano de Souza (BRA) and Gabriel Medina (BRA) are through to the Quarterfinals. Julian Wilson (AUS) and World No.2 Filipe Toledo (BRA) are both out of title contention, having been eliminated from competition in Round 3.

Medina eliminated South Africa’s Jordy Smith (ZAF) in the first heat of the day. Reading the unsettled early morning conditions perfectly, the 2014 World Champion dodged the massive sets that rolled through from the Third Reef and then picked off the waves that enabled him to get deep inside, and emerge from, hollow spitting barrels.

The 13th place finish leaves Smith, who was ranked No. 29 on the Jeep rankings leaderboard going into the season-ending event, well outside the Top 22 who will qualify for the 2016 WSL Championship Tour. However, the South African is the frontrunner for the annual WSL injury wildcard after missing five events while recovering from leg and back injuries this year.

Rankings frontrunner Mick Fanning (AUS) on his way to winning his Round 3 heat. Photo: WSL / Cestari

Rankings frontrunner Mick Fanning (AUS) on his way to winning his Round 3 heat. Photo: WSL / Cestari

Fanning, who woke to the devastating news that his eldest brother had passed away overnight back in Australia, came into the most anticipated heat of Round 3, facing off against 2004 Pipe Masters champion Jamie O’Brien (HAW) in building Pipeline conditions. Finding an 8.47 on his opening ride, Fanning held off O’Brien for the majority of the heat – combo’ing the former Pipe Master by the final horn.

“It was always going to be a difficult heat with Jamie [O’Brien] being one of the best guys out here and surfing it the most,” Fanning said. “I just got lucky at the start when Michel [Bourez] and Kelly [Slater] sort of let me go on that first one and I just kept trying to improve that backup score.”

After overcoming the challenge presented by O’Brien, Fanning drew two Pipeline specialists in Kelly Slater (USA) and John John Florence (HAW) for an incredible Round 4 match-up. After what pundits are calling “the heat of the year,” with all three surfers exchanging high scores, Fanning came out on top with a 17.30 heat total to earn his place in the Quarterfinals.

“I can’t really put it into words,” Fanning said. “When you’re paddling out against John John [Florence] and Kelly [Slater], two of the greatest tube riders, I just thought that when the waves come, I’ll do my best. It’s been a huge day. I’ve got some personal stuff going on at home. It’s so heavy to talk about right now and I’m just trying to focus on the water.”

Keeping pace with Fanning, current World No.3 Adriano de Souza (BRA) earned a direct pass to his first Pipe Masters Quarterfinal appearance after surviving a Round 3 bout with Glenn Hall (IRL) and coming out on top in Round 4 over Josh Kerr (AUS) and Adam Melling (AUS). The 10-year CT veteran is seeking a maiden WSL Title and knows exactly what needs to be done.

“I feel blessed for the day we have had and I’m so happy to make the two heats – it’s an incredible feeling to make the Quarterfinals and keep my World Title dreams alive,” De Souza said. “There are a lot of people talking and I’m not really worried about it. Basically I just need to do my job out there, find my waves and get out of the barrels – that’s my focus out here and it definitely has improved. The last few years I’ve put in a lot of work over here and I just wanted to get the result today.”

Gabriel Medina (BRA) on his way to the Quarterfinals Photo: WSL / Kirstin

Gabriel Medina (BRA) on his way to the Quarterfinals Photo: WSL / Kirstin

Though his 2015 Title hopes remain slim, reigning WSL Champion Gabriel Medina (BRA) looked unbeatable throughout the day. After taking down Smith in the opening heat of Round 3, Medina continued to charge through Round 4 over C.J. Hobgood (USA) and Keanu Asing (HAW).

“I like these type of waves and I don’t feel pressure from the World Title because these guys are a little bit ahead of me,” Medina said. “I just focus on my heat, my job and this is great even though it’s not Finals day, a lot is happening and it’s really exciting.”

Wildcard Mason Ho (HAW) emerges from the barrel Photo: WSL / Masurel

Wildcard Mason Ho (HAW) emerges from the barrel Photo: WSL / Masurel

Mason Ho (HAW), Billabong Pipe Masters wildcard, created a massive upset this morning in eliminating current World No. 2 Filipe Toledo (BRA) from the event and the WSL Title race.

“It didn’t go as I expected but I just figured I would get anything that came and it almost didn’t work out,” Ho said. “Filipe and all these guys on tour are just so smart with the whole game and priority.”

Ho continued his impressive form and opened up Heat 3, Round 4 heat against former Pipe Masters Joel Parkinson (AUS) and Jeremy Flores (FRA) with a 10-point ride, helping the young Hawaiian advance directly into the Quarterfinals.

Toledo’s WSL Title run came to an end after a phenomenal 2015 CT season, claiming three event wins at the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast, Oi Rio Pro and the Moche Rip Curl Pro – earning a perfect 10 at each contest. The 20-year-old is poised for another big year next season after gaining a wealth of knowledge contending for a Title.

“This has been an amazing year for sure – it’s been the best one of my career,” Toledo said. “I had a lot of fun the whole time with the boys fighting for the World Title and I had my chance. It didn’t happen this year but next year I will be back stronger. It’s my first year competing in the World Title race and just really happy to come to Hawaii with a chance to win.

Julian Wilson (AUS), one of the form surfers of the season, was also eliminated from the 2015 WSL Title race at the hands of compatriot Adam Melling (AUS). Melling, who entered the Billabong Pipe Masters rated 26th, is through to the Quarterfinals and hunting a requalification bid for 2016.

Bede Durbidge (AUS) falls on the take-off on a huge wave at Pipeline Photo: WSL / Masurel

Bede Durbidge (AUS) falls on the take-off on a huge wave at Pipeline Photo: WSL / Masurel

The incredible force of Pipeline was felt today as numerous excellent scores, including three perfect 10 point rides, were posted, but the world-renowned wave also unleashed its wrath with former Pipe Master Bede Durbidge (AUS) suffering a horrific wipeout. After committing to a heavy drop on his opening wave, Durbidge couldn’t hold on and was thrown onto the shallow reef.

“He was taken to the hospital after they were able to get him on the beach and he’s received some scans which revealed two breaks in his pelvis that will require some surgery,” WSL Commissioner Kieren Perrow said. “It’s something that you never want to see on a day like today but we all know it’s a possibility of happening. The good news is he will be okay but it’s going to be a recovery process and we just send our best to him and his family.”

Event organizers will reconvene tomorrow morning at 7am to reassess conditions. The swell is expected to be trend down through Thursday but to still provide an epic playing field for the tour finale and the crowning of the 2015 WSL Champion.

When competition resumes, up first will be Josh Kerr (AUS) against Jeremy Flores (FRA) in the final heat of Round 5.

Highlights from Wednesday are available at WorldSurfLeague.com where the final day’s action can be watched live, starting at 7.30pm South African time.

BILLABONG PIPE MASTERS QUARTERFINAL MATCH-UPS:
QF 1: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. C.J. Hobgood (USA)
QF 2: Mick Fanning (AUS) vs. Kelly Slater (USA
QF 3: Mason Ho (HAW) vs. Adam Melling (AUS)
QF 4: Adriano de Souza (BRA) vs. TBD

BILLABONG PIPE MASTERS ROUND 5 RESULTS:
Heat 1: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 13.34 def. John John Florence (HAW) 9.76
Heat 2: Kelly Slater (USA) 17.07 def. Keanu Asing (HAW) 9.77
Heat 3: Adam Melling (AUS) 5.17 def. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 4.20

REMAINING BILLABONG PIPE MASTERS ROUND 5 MATCH-UP:
Heat 4: Josh Kerr (AUS) vs. Jeremy Flores (FRA)

BILLABONG PIPE MASTERS ROUND 4 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 15.30, C.J. Hobgood (USA) 5.47, Keanu Asing (HAW) 4.27
Heat 2: Mick Fanning (AUS) 17.30, Kelly Slater (USA) 16.47, John John Florence (HAW) 15.16
Heat 3: Mason Ho (HAW) 16.23, Joel Parkinson (AUS) 15.03, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 10.24
Heat 4: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 13.67, Josh Kerr (AUS) 12.13, Adam Melling (AUS) 1.43

BILLABONG PIPE MASTERS ROUND 3 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 15.84 def. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 4.50
Heat 2: Keanu Asing (HAW) 5.00 def. Bede Durbidge (AUS) 0.17
Heat 3: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 6.74 def. Italo Ferreira (BRA)
Heat 4: Kelly Slater (USA) 13.43 def. Michel Bourez (PYF) 7.00
Heat 5: Mick Fanning (AUS) 12.14 vs. Jamie O’Brien (HAW) 2.70
Heat 6: John John Florence (HAW) 19.93 def. Taj Burrow (AUS) 6.67
Heat 7: Mason Ho (HAW) 6.93 def. Filipe Toledo (BRA) 6.67
Heat 8: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 10.86 def. Kai Otton (AUS) 5.40
Heat 9: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 14.44 def. Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 14.23
Heat 10: Adam Melling (AUS) 15.73 def. Julian Wilson (AUS) 15.16
Heat 11: Josh Kerr (AUS) 7.67 def. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 3.20
Heat 12: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 10.00 def. Glenn Hall (IRL) 4.70

ENDS

NOTE: High resolution images are available to Media Outlets on request

About the World Surf League
The mission of the WSL is simple: to inspire positive change for surfing, our fans and the environment. Formerly the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP), the WSL has been championing the world’s best surfing since 1976, running global products across the Samsung Galaxy men’s and women’s Championship Tours, Big Wave Tour, Qualifying Series, Junior and Longboard Championships, as well as the WSL Big Wave Awards. The League possesses a deep appreciation for the sport’s rich heritage while promoting progression, innovation and performance at the highest levels; it strives to put the world’s best surfers on the world’s best waves.

Showcasing the world’s best surfing on its digital platform at WorldSurfLeague.com, the WSL has energized an already-passionate global fan base with millions around the world tuning-in to see the likes of Kelly Slater, Filipe Toledo, Gabriel Medina, Makua Rothman, Grant “Twiggy” Baker, Greg Long, Stephanie Gilmore, John John Florence, Carissa Moore and others do battle in the most dynamic field of play in all of sports. For more information, please visit WorldSurfLeague.com.

Issued on behalf of:

WSL Africa
Contact: Colin Fitch – Operations Manager
Tel: 021 534 5738
Email: cfitch@worldsurfleague.com

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