After leading the pack for four events, Adriano de Souza (BRA) might have to relinquish the yellow jersey by the time the Billabong Pro Tahiti is over. De Souza has been sitting on top of the Jeep Leaderboard since his win at Margaret River in April. But in a huge upset, wildcard Bruno Santos eliminated his fellow Brazilian in Round 3. De Souza's early exit opened the door for the next four surfers on the leaderboard to potentially overtake his pole position.
Santos made a name for himself as Teahupo'o specialist in 2008 when he won the Tahiti event as a wildcard. He proved to be formidable here yet again Monday, piling on keeper scores until he had De Souza in a combination situation (in which a surfer needs a combination of two new scores to take the lead). Eventually, De Souza earned an 8.10 for a hollow tube ride, but was unable to back it up.
"I was really excited and that heat was amazing," Santos said afterward. "I'm very happy now but sad at the same time because Adriano is a good friend of mine and I really want to see him with the Title at the end of the year."
The defeat meant that, once again, Mick Fanning (AUS) and Julian Wilson (AUS) were each one heat away from becoming World No. 1. But the wildcards were relentless. In the next heat, number 7, Aritz Aranburu (BRA) locked in a 7.00 and quickly back it up with an 8.17 before the ocean went quiet. Fanning never found his wave, scoring a total of just 6.67, and was eliminated in another big upset of the day.
With inconsistent conditions, the rest of Round 3 was called off for the day, but the damage had been done. With Wilson, Owen Wright (AUS) and Filipe Toledo (BRA) still in the game, De Souza will have to wait to see if he'll hang on to the top spot, or be relegated to second fiddle.
At the start of the day, fans were split on who would win the first Superheat of the Billabong Pro Tahiti, Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. John John Florence (HAW). Both had something to prove: Reigning Champ Medina has had a lackluster start to 2015 while golden boy Florence is back after missing two events because of a high ankle sprain.
Going into their heat, the two were tied in career, head-to-head matchups. Their first battle was at the 2012 Billabong Pro, where Florence dominated. Next, Medina won their their faceoff in the 2014 Fiji Pro Quarterfinals. This time, he left nothing to chance to keep his edge over the Hawaiian phenom.
Medina found two early barrels and a third under Florence's priority, staying deep in the pit for a 9.07 and control of the heat. Florence climbed back with a ride in the seven-point range but spent some time sitting out the back, watching Medina drop into seven waves. But when he eventually got going, he was on fire, pulling deep into a throaty tube for a 9.57, and the battle was on. A backup nine-pointer forced Medina to look for heavier sets to catch up.
With both surfers in rhythm, they went blow for blow, with Florence increasing his lead with a 9.27. But in the final minutes, Medina pulled into a massive set wave for a 9.73 -- and the win.
"I was really excited before the heat and kind of scared too," Medina said. "John John is one of the best out here and he's my favorite surfer. That was a good battle and we both got a few nines. I'm stoked to get barreled, the waves were amazing and it's great to make one more heat.
"I knew it would be a tough heat. My dad told me not to worry about high scores, just to focus and keep doing what you're doing. It's good to be making heats again after a lot of loss at the beginning of the year. I love this wave and I'm looking for a good result here."
Watch all the upcoming action LIVE here and on the WSL app. The event waiting period runs through August 25.