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Rankings Leader’s Yellow Jersey up for Grabs after Upsets in Tahiti

August 22nd, 2015
Gabriel Medina shows the form that earned him victory over John John Florence in Tahiti  Photo: WSL / Robertson

Gabriel Medina shows the form that earned him victory over John John Florence in Tahiti Photo: WSL / Robertson

Surfing Column for Independent on Saturday – 22 August 2015

By Paul Botha

The rankings lead on the World Surf League Championship Tour is set to change hands after current leader Adriano de Souza and second placed Mick Fanning were both bundled out of the Billabong Pro Tahiti in major upsets in round three earlier this week.

De Souza has worn the yellow jersey since he won the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro, the third stop on the 11-event tour that decides the annual World Surfing Champion, back in April. However, his record in the hollow waves of Teahupo’o has been blighted by wildcards over the past four years, and that proved to be the case again this year.

After finishing second to fellow Brazilian and wildcard Bruno Santos in round one, de Souza redeemed himself with a convincing win over local Tahitian wildcard, Taumata Puhetina, only to find himself facing Santos again in round three. Santos, whose prowess at Teahupo’o saw him win the 2010 event as a wildcard, dashed de Souza’s hopes of retaining the rankings lead by repeating his round one victory.

This left the way open for Fanning to claim the yellow jersey, but the Australian who had settled his competitive nerves by winning his first competitive heat since his much publicised shark encounter at Jeffreys Bay last month, simply could not find any high scoring waves and was ousted by hard charging New Zealand rookie Ricardo Christie.

Australians Julian Wilson and Owen Wright along with Brazilian Filipe Toledo, the winner of two events already this year, now have the opportunity to leapfrog de Souza and Fanning into the rankings lead with high place finishes in Tahiti.

The most competitive heat of the year played out just before the drama with the top seeds when arguably the planet’s two most talented young surfers, reigning world champion Gabriel Medina and Hawaiian John John Florence, produced an incredibly high scoring clash in the perfect two metre hollow waves.

Medina, 21, secured the first excellent ride of the duel, scoring 9.07 out of a possible 10 for a deep tube ride. Florence, 22, answered back by freefalling down the face of a wave and getting buried deep inside the tube before coming out sliding sideways and being rewarded with 9.57 by the judges

The Hawaiian consolidated his lead with a 9.07 and Medina came close to the 9.58 he then needed with a 9.27. Florence looked to have clinched the win and berth in the last 12 in the event with a 9.44 but Medina was not to be outdone and he paddled far into the lineup before taking off on a wave that looked unmakeable.

Somehow managing to generate enough speed to burst through the curtain of water as the wave pinched closed, he posted the heat’s highest score of 9.73 and clinched a 19.00 vs. 18.84 point victory.

Organisers are expecting bigger waves for the final two days of the event on Monday and Tuesday. All the action can be watched live at worldsurfleague.com starting at 8pm daily.

ENDS

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