"That's what the Tour is about, surfing against your heroes and guys you have looked up to your whole life," said Kanoa Igarashi, "but you have to switch it, realize they are not heroes in heats and smash 'em." Kanoa had just defeated Mick Fanning, continued his undefeated Round Two run and added another upset to a day of high-seed carnage at the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro. It was a day of high drama that could have major World Title implications.
The carnage started early in the very first heat of the day. Local wildcard Jacob Willcox and Gabriel Medina paddled out in the first heat as solid 10-foot sets poured through the Margaret River Main Break. Willcox grew up in the hills above the break and used his local knowledge to oust the 2014 World Champion.
"When you are so used to the ocean, the currents and the swell and know how it all moves, and get to sleep in your own bed, it all adds up," he said. "I have a lot of respect for Gabriel and the way he surfs, so I was so happy to take him down in my own backyard."
Next to go, in the very next heat, was current No. 2 Matt Wilkinson. The injury replacement Nat Young surfed a smart heat and reveled in the huge conditions to take down Wilko. "When I saw the surf this morning, I just grabbed my biggest board," he said. "I've been coming to Western Australia since I was 16 and have had some great results here, so as long as I surfed a smart heat I was confident." Wilkinson, too, had little problem breaking down the reasons for his shock loss. "Where did it go wrong? Well, I didn't win I guess," he laughed, before heading off to pack his quiver for Bells.
After the shocks of the first two heats, the old guard did manage to claw back some ground. Ace Buchan shaded the impressive rookie Frederico Morais, but needed the highest heat total of the day to do so.
"Fred is a rookie, but he doesn't surf like one," Buchan said. "I said to him afterward, ‘You had me on the ropes,' but that's why we love this Tour. To get through those tough heats, against inspiring new surfers, is why I keep doing it."
Joel Parkinson, who is always a favorite in the West, did a similar job on the Italian Leo Fioravanti, using the vast acreage of the Main Break rights, to engage both rails. When there's big fins and rounded pins needed for heats, Parko will always be a contender. Bede Durbidge and Adriano de Souza, also in the over-30 club, then made sure that while youth can be counted on to show flashes of inspiration, experience still matters.
However, just as surfing's world order was returning to its normal axis, 19-year-old Igarashi had time for one last tilt. His coach, Jake Paterson, had advised him to make Mick Fanning work for any victory. He did that, with the 3x World Champ requiring a score on his last wave of the heat. Mick immediately knew it wasn't enough, and stomped the tail of his board in frustration. When Mick is showing outward signs of aggression, you know there's been a definite shift in the surf continuum.