MARGARET RIVER, Western Australia/AUS (Sunday, April 9, 2017) - Reigning WSL Champion John John Florence (HAW) claimed victory today at the second stop of the World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro, after defeating Kolohe Andino (USA) in the Final.
Florence lit up Western Australia and dominated the event with near-perfect scores in almost every heat. The reigning WSL Champion continued his form throughout the Quarterfinals, Semifinals and Final today in solid six-to-eight foot (2 - 2.5 metre) waves at Margaret River's Main Break.
Florence's success marks his first victory on the CT Australian leg and best ever start to the elite Championship season. The win pushes Florence up to first on the Jeep Leaderboard and he will sport the coveted Jeep Leader Jersey heading into Bells Beach.
"This is one of my favourite places to come to in the world," said Florence. "There is such an abundance of different and amazing waves. The crowd we get for the event is awesome and it's just such a special event. Thank you to my mom and family. My mom would take me and my brothers to all of our surfing events when we were kids and was always supportive. I wish she was here to celebrate, but I know they are watching at home. My support crew here has been really great and fun to surf and just hang out with, so thank you to those guys."
The Final saw a dramatic finish as Florence charged through Main Break with massive laybacks and powerful rail-carves. Andino fought back with a big air reverse and clean snaps for a 13.60 two-wave score. Despite Andino's technical maneuvers, Florence kept on pace with his previous performances to earn a phenomenal 19.03 combined score to close out the day.
"I was really excited to get out there and just stay focused on my own surfing at this event," continued Florence. "I feel like I learned a ton last year. I have been working closely on my equipment and my boards feel incredible right now. Surfing against Kolohe [Andino] in the Final was really cool. He used to always beat me in the national events when we were kids, so it was nice to get one back on him."
Andino's runner-up finish is his best result in Margaret River and will move him up to 3rd place on the Jeep Leaderboard. Andino has yet to solidify an event win on the elite Championship Tour, but will now look to Bells to improve his 2017 World Title campaign.
"I'm really stoked with this event," Andino said. "The waves today -- and the entire event for that matter -- have been awesome. You can't ask for much more than big swell and offshore winds. I know I work as hard as anyone else on tour and my surfing is there, but I just need to work on competing right. This event was really John's [Florence] to lose. I am glad I was on the other side of the draw as he was ripping so hard all event. I've been competing against John since as long as I can remember and he has always pushed me a lot, so it was cool to share a CT Final with him."
Semifinal 1 saw Florence take down Australian threat Jack Freestone (AUS) . Despite this being Freestone's second year on the CT, the young charger made his mark at this event with big wins over top seeds. Unfortunately, Freestone met his match in the Semifinals and was not able to hold on against eventual winner Florence. Freestone's 3rd place finish will give him a boost up to 8th on the Jeep Leaderboard.
Freestone opened up the day a huge upset as he eliminated Owen Wright (AUS) in the Quarterfinals. Wright looked in great form, but an equipment malfunction during a set wave caused him to fall on his bottom turn. Wright was unable to find the 5.51 required to combat Freestone. Wright came into this event ranked No. 1, but will now move to 2nd on the Jeep Leaderboard with his 5th place finish.
"I kind of liked that the start was a bit slow because then it would come down to what wave you were going to choose and what tactics you were going to play," said Wright. "But that did not go to plan at all. Jack [Freestone] took off on a wave that had a lesser-score, but then a perfect one came through for me and a fin popped out on my bottom turn. Brand new board, brand new fins, and the fin box was tight, but the fin just popped out on the bottom turn. I just skidded out and fell on my back. It was such a good wave. All the best to Jack. I am just a bit bummed that that went that way for me."
Filipe Toledo (BRA) fell to Andino in a close Semifinal matchup by only 0.63-points. The two went blow for blow but it was Andino who took the win. The heat was briefly put on a precautionary hold halfway through the heat due to fear of a shark presence in the lineup. Event organizers fully assessed the area before resuming the event.
Toledo, who was absent at last year's event due to an injury, put on a stunning performance throughout the day to earn a 3rd place result. Toledo will also climb from 25th to 8th place on the Jeep Leaderboard. Toledo previously ousted 2015 WSL Champion and former event winner, Adriano de Souza (BRA) , in the all-Brazilian Quarterfinal matchup.
"That was a really strange heat," Toledo said. "Stopping half way through then resuming, it was hard to stay focussed out there. I'm really happy with my result here. This is a place where I feel I don't get much attention so to show everyone that I can perform in conditions like this is really good for me. I can deal with big open face waves and powerful surf. I just want to make sure I can take this form with me to Bells and keep it going."
Florence also eliminated former event winner Michel Bourez (PYF) in the Quarterfinals.
Earlier today, Jordy Smith (ZAF) was dispatched by Andino in the Quarterfinals. Smith put up a solid battle with two excellent 8-point rides, but it was not enough to overcome Andino's incredible, near-perfect 18.77 combined score. Smith will walk away with an Equal 5th place finish and 4th ranking heading in the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach.
Highlights from the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro are available at WorldSurfLeague.com.
The next stop on the 2017 WSL Championship Tour is the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach in Victoria, Australia from April 12 - April 24. The event will be broadcast LIVE via WorldSurfLeague.com, the WSL app and on Facebook LIVE via the WSL's Facebook page. Also check the local listings for coverage on CBS Sports Network in the U.S., Fox Sports in Australia, ESPN in Brazil, Sky NZ in New Zealand, SFR Sports in France and Portugal and as part of the EDGEsport Network.
Drug Aware Margaret River Pro Men's Final Results:
1 - John John Florence (HAW) 19.03
2 - Kolohe Andino (USA) 13.60
Drug Aware Margaret River Pro Men's Semifinal Results:
SF 1: John John Florence (HAW) 19.27 def. Jack Freestone (AUS) 10.57
SF 2: Kolohe Andino (USA) 15.63 def. Filipe Toledo (BRA) 15.00
Drug Aware Margaret River Pro Men's Quarterfinal Results:
QF 1: Jack Freestone (AUS) 10.50 def. Owen Wright (AUS) 5.50
QF 2: John John Florence (HAW) 18.04 def. Michel Bourez (PYF) 15.77 QF 3: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 12.83 def. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 10.33
QF 4: Kolohe Andino (USA) 18.77 def. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 16.86
2017 WSL Men's Jeep Leaderboard (After Drug Aware Margaret River Pro):
1 - John John Florence (HAW) 16,500 pts
2 - Owen Wright (AUS) 15,200 pts
3 - Kolohe Andino (USA) 12,000 pts
4 - Jordy Smith (ZAF) 9,200 pts
4 - Adriano de Souza (BRA) 9,200 pts