After five consecutive lay days, the opening heats of the Fiji Pro had been analyzed, dissected, sliced and diced 10 different ways. But when the contest finally got going, not everyone lived up to the hype.
First, there was Kelly Slater (USA). No need to refresh your results page: He did in fact finish last in his Round 1 heat. After earning a 6.17 early on, he spent most of the heat playing catchup to his competitors. Alejo Muniz (BRA) meanwhile, who is the injury replacement for Michel Bourez (PYF), was aggressive in the lineup.
While Slater was choosy, Muniz earned the heat's highest single-wave score, a 6.60, for a long string of power-hacks, and some time behind the curtain for a decent backup score. Plus, the 11-time World Champ's veteran knowledge wasn't helping his wave selection. Still, the last time Slater surfed Round 2 in Fiji -- 2013 -- he went on to win the event.
Jay Davies (AUS), who wowed the crowd with his performance earlier this year at Margaret River, didn't take down giants or win his heat in Round 1. But he did deliver on his promise of being a show-stopper. Davies found the deepest barrel of opening day, escaping cleanly for an excellent-range score.
Halfway through the Round was Heat 6, and featured World No. 1 leader Adriano de Souza (BRA). After a stellar performance in Western Oz, he's still struggling to find success in the leader's yellow jersey. His opponent Kai Otton (AUS) forced him into a combination situation (needing two new scores) within the heat's first 10 minutes, and kept him there. De Souza is trying to rebound from a 13th-place finish in Rio, but was unable to lock in a score higher than a 4.83. He'll compete in the sudden-death heats of Round 2.
Reigning World Champion Gabriel Medina (BRA), on the other hand, seemed to return to form in Fiji, a contest he won last season. Medina already has two 13th-place finishes and a 25th-place finish this year, but rebounded from the bottom of his heat with a new energy. Fired up, he strung together a number of impressive turns for the first nine-pointer of the event.
The rookie contingency continues to show up for the judges, undaunted by their more veteran peers. Keanu Asing (HAW) earned his first Round 1 victory as an elite surfer, defeating Tour veterans Bede Durbidge (AUS) and Matt Wilkinson (AUS), while Italo Ferreira (BRA) took down former World Champion Joel Parkinson (AUS) after a see-saw battle.