Intensity rose with the swell as the Quiksilver Pro France got underway Thursday local time, the third day of the event waiting period. The combo of Autumn's heavy waves and a relocation up the bank made for a day of overhead barrels, impressive upsets and close calls.
Three surfers are in range of overtaking the No. 1 spot from Mick Fanning (AUS), who won his Round 1 heat. Adriano de Souza (BRA), World No. 2, also won in Round 1, which bumped him directly to Round 3. But Filipe Toledo (BRA) (World No. 3) and Owen Wright (AUS) (World No. 4) found themselves on the wrong end of Round 1 results, losing to two of the event's most dangerous additions -- replacement surfer Tomas Hermes (BRA) and wildcard Dane Reynolds (USA).
Reynolds, who in three CT events this year has showed off a renewed competitive spirit, got his heat started with two high scores and had Wright in a combo situation (in which he needed two new scores to catch up) from start to finish. Hermes, who got the call up to replace Freddy Patacchia (HAW), also won a direct jump to Round 3. In a sleepy heat that came alive in the last 20 seconds, Hermes unleashed progressive maneuvers on the high-tide conditions to overpower Toledo.
Other drama-filled moments included Brett Simpson's performance in the opening heat of the day. Back-to-back tube rides garnered two solid scores for him, including an excellent-range (8.00 or above) score. Eleven-time World Champ Kelly Slater (USA) remained within reach, earning a 7.17 on his own righthand barrel and forcing a tie on his last-ditch effort. In spite of his late comeback, Slater fell short. They tied in heat totals, but the win went to Simpson, who held the highest single-wave score (an 8.17) of the heat (this rule went in Slater's favor at the 2014 Tahiti contest, when he and Florence tied in the Semifinals. It was Slater who moved on to the Final).
Alejo Muniz (BRA) was another addition to the event who found gems in the heavy surf, scoring a 9.10 in Heat 8, which set him up to potentially defeat Florence. But Muniz was injured soon after, twisting his knee when a foamball knocked him over. Unfortunately, his injury ended his run in Hossegor before he'd barely gotten started. The former CT surfer was taken from site on a stretcher and to a hospital for further assessment.
Among the surfers still in the game, more fireworks erupted when World No. 5 Julian Wilson (AUS) posted two consecutive scores in the nine-point range, disappearing behind the curtain for multiple sections. Even his kickouts had some flair: Between his solid waves and launches out of them, he dominated his Round 2 heat. The Aussie wunderkind may have had something besides skill in play; Before heading to Hossegor he got engaged to his longtime girlfriend in Paris (where else?).
"I want to have a really consistent year," Wilson said. "Two thirteenth places obviously never feels good but there's a lot left to go in the year."
Defending event champion John John Florence (HAW) also returned to form in spectacular fashion. After racing through a throaty barrel, he completed a dramatic finishing maneuver for a near-perfect 9.93, the highest score of the day.
While the waves continued to pump, by mid-afternoon the onshore wind was up and the conditions deteriorated. The competition wrapped up after Round 1, with Round 2 up next.
Tune in Friday at 8 a.m. local time for the next call and possible next round of heavy battles. Watch the action live on the WSL site and on the WSL App.