The waves at Lower Trestles were pumping for Day Two of the Hurley Pro. The cobblestone A-frame turned a healthy south swell into spinning, overhead walls. These are ideal conditions for veterans to cut loose, and several did.
But Friday's biggest headlines were the upsets as rookies, wildcards, and underdogs effectively threw another big wrench in the Jeep Leaderboard during Round Two.
In Heat 1, wildcard Brett Simpson knocked out World No. 2 Matt Wilkinson in a hard-fought match. It was a critical heat for Wilko, and he was understandably rattled by the result. His recent loss of momentum is certainly cause for concern. After his early loss in Tahiti he handed over the yellow jersey to John John Florence. With today's early exit he's already slipped to No. 3. But on the brighter side, his surfing looks as solid as ever. Wilko's lethal backhand attack is intact.
Simpson, on the other hand, has been confronting real-world issues since falling off the CT last season. He's been spending time enjoying his growing family, recharging his batteries, and pondering whether to take another crack at qualifying, or get moving on his post-surf career. Beating the World No. 2-ranked surfer should carry some sway in that decision. Then again, so should his next match, which will pit him against John John Florence, the World No. 1.
Rookie Alex Ribeiro claimed the next veteran scalp. He defeated World No. 5 Julian Wilson in another nail-biter. Like Simpson, Ribeiro took to the air, landing some impressive rotations on the lefts. It was enough to get past Wilson by the slimmest of margins (14.87-14.83).
The Round Two loss will sting for Wilson as well. Some considered him a sleeper in the world title hunt. But this is his third 25th result (Brazil and Fiji are the others). A third 25th puts that dream on ice.
Even the reigning World Champ went down on Friday, when Kai Otton defeated Adriano de Souza in Heat 3. Adriano looked uncharacteristically out of sorts, falling on a few waves. Kai capitalized on those mistakes after nabbing a solid 8-point ride early on. The judges lost count of how many times he connected with the lip on that one, and he held priority for most of the heat afterward. De Souza's loss marks his second 25th in a row.
Despite the string of upsets, a few WSL kingpins put together impressive performances.
Mick Fanning was the clear standout of Round Two. Feeding off his R1 heat with an in-form Joel Parkinson, Fanning posted the highest heat total of the day (18.60). For a guy who's "taking a break" from the Tour, the 3x World Champ is looking sharp as ever. His impeccable rail work at right-hand points has already earned him one victory this year, and vacation or not, the oddsmakers in Vegas say the defending Hurley Pro champ is still the safest bet to win it again.
Kelly Slater's odds improved after his Tahiti win, and he's looked solid so far at Trestles, but rookie Ryan Callinan made him work to advance out of Round Two. Callinan is continually on the edge of a breakout, but that's hard to do against the likes of Slater at Trestles. Nevertheless, the rookie made a valiant effort on rights and lefts at Lowers, showcasing much more of his high-performance repertoire than we've seen anywhere else this year. But Kelly's flowing forehand proved to be too much, and he earned a narrow win (15.80-15.20). Slater will face another Australian rookie, Jack Freestone, in Round Three.
While there were several tight scoring heats today, one of the most intriguing was between Kolohe Andino and Jeremy Flores. The two were nearly surfing in tandem the entire heat, catching back-to-back waves in exchange after exchange.
Flores got the judges' nod on the first one, but Andino came firing back on one of the biggest sets of the day. The face was stretched, which made going vertical tough, so Andino resorted to a huge layback hack, and then weaved his way to the end closeout section, a frothy monster that didn't exactly provide a clean ramp. But that didn't stop him. Knowing he needed a big score he launched into a reverse, and when he pulled it down Kolohe couldn't resist claiming it.
"I've been trying not to claim all year, but I couldn't resist that one," Andino said afterward. "My emotions took over."
Having escaped that round, Andino is now hoping to get past Round Three at Lowers for the first time in his CT career. Given that it's his home break, he's certainly due, but his buddy Conner Coffin will be trying to stop him.
The current southern-hemi swell should continue to produce fun surf for the next few days. Tune in Saturday morning for a likely Round Three start.