Rookie Rampage at Rip Curl Pro

Breakdown: The Upsets
Joel Parkinson, Kelly Slater, John John Florence, Gabriel Medina: All went down in early defeat Monday at the Rip Curl Pro.

Apparently, this is what disruption looks like.

We're now midway through event number two of the WSL season, and already the ratings upheaval on the CT is real and dramatic, thanks largely to a fresh crop of rookies and equally talented replacements who are not only stunning the top seeds, but opening the door for those lying in wait.

Monday was a short one at the Rip Curl Pro. Only six heats were run, but four of them were upsets.

Mick Fanning, Full Speed Ahead
Defending champ Mick Fanning looks as dangerous as ever. The WSL commentators dissect his battle with Dusty Payne.

It was business as usual early, with Mick Fanning behaving very much like a four-time bell-ringer with eyes on number five. He bagged a pair of 8's during his match with Dusty Payne, and cruised into Round Four with his foot firmly on the accelerator. The heat looked like any other from the last few years.

Jordy Smith winning his Round 3 heat at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach. Jordy Smith is one to watch if conditions at Bells hold. - WSL / Ed Sloane

Jordy Smith was up next, and while he's also just getting warm, this is bigger news since his body was in the shop for the bulk of last year. His confidence is likely to grow with each opportunity to turn. In his heat against Kai Otton, Jordy nabbed a medium sized wave with a wall midway through the heat and unloaded three back-to-back power hooks in the pocket. The display earned him an 8.73, the single highest score of the day, and a trip to the next round.

Joel Parkinson was eliminated in Round 3. Joel Parkinson was the first upset of the day, suffering at the hands of a last-minute gasp by Conner Coffin in Round Three - WSL / Ed Sloane

The next match is when the earth started to rattle, as three-time bell-ringer Joel Parkinson was in a highly anticipated match with rookie Conner Coffin. Coffin, like much of this year's rookie crop, appears more battle hardened than those of previous years. With the current talent level on the QS, and the commitment involved to thread the qualification needle, by the time these guys graduate they're not easily intimidated.

Conner Coffin's Shocking Upset
Conner Coffin's shocking upset of Joel Parkinson sent a ripple through the crowded beach.

This pairing was viewed as a clash of of the hard carvers. And while conditions weren't conducive to extended rail holds, Parko was his usual elegant self, linking moves with ease. Conner, meanwhile, pressed hard aggressively every time the opportunity presented itself. But the revealing moment in this heat was the end, when Conner sat patiently with priority, still needing a solid score. Parko sat right on him, trying to lure him into a bad decision, but Coffin didn't budge. With 1:50 to go, needing a 6.46, he stroked into a medium size set and went to work. The damage he did earned him an 8.17, and a trip to Round Four. This was the first big shock of the day.

Conner Coffin's Reaction
Following his Round Three victory over Joel Parkinson, the rookie shares what was going through his head.
Kelly Slater eliminated in Round 3. Save for the flashes of brilliance, Kelly Slater has yet to find his rhythm in Australia. - WSL / Ed Sloane

Next up was Kelly Slater and Michel Bourez. Slater stayed busier this time around, hunting for anything with a wall, but once again, he only found two scores. A fall on the end of his first scoring wave capped it at a 5.33, and that proved the difference. Bourez, one of many in the lying in wait category these days, made Slater pay. Shock two.

Michel Bourez delivered Kelly Slater another early-round elimination in Round 3. Michel Bourez's high-speed floats lifted him over the tricky sections and above Kelly Slater. - WSL / Ed Sloane

John John Florence knew he had a tough draw with Caio Ibelli coming in. Ibelli, last year's QS champion, is from the same hometown as Adriano de Souza, and he too got to where he is with a lot of hard work and a well-rounded approach. Both surfers opened strong, earning identical 7.67's on their first scoring rides. The debate (which is still going) is whether John's opening ride was worthy of more.

John John Florence eliminated in Round 3 John John Florence's surfing was undoubtedly on point, but wave selection may have cost him. - WSL / Ed Sloane

Florence's vicious layback hack was one of the best of the event. Yet he only managed a few foam climbs afterward. Caio had a nice layback hack of his own on a bigger wave, and backed it up with two swooping carves. John John was more aggressive. Caio was more productive. The judges called it even. It was the same story on the next exchange, but Caio had a good straight up out the back, and John John's frothy wave didn't allow him to get vertical. Shock three.

Caio Ibelli's Crowd
Caio Ibelli battled the odds and the experience of Hawaiian John John Florence to find victory in Round Three. When the rookie arrived on the beach, he was greeted by excited fans.

By this point Gabriel Medina should have seen the danger. He was dealing with rookie Davey Cathels in the final heat of the day. Cathels is no stranger to Bells. He gathered a ton of experience there during his days as a Pro Junior. He attacked surgically, avoiding the tricky targets, and capitalizing on the clean ones with vertical hits, and nice rail work. He grabbed a lead, and held it while Medina fell repeatedly, even losing his board at one point to a faulty leash. As time wound down Cathels put his chess skills to work, owning the lineup with priority, and using it to his advantage. Shock four.

Cathels and Ibelli will now join Michel Bourez in Round Four. The round will open with Italo Ferriera facing Nat Young and Julian Wilson. Matt Wilkinson, Wiggoly Dantas and Mason Ho will have at it, but the superheat of the round will be Mick Fanning, Jordy Smith and Conner Coffin.

Round Three Highlights
In just a few shorts heats, some of the Tour's most succesful veterans went down to new arrivals.