TAVARUA/NAMOTU, Fiji (Wednesday, May 24, 2017) - The world's best surfers are preparing for Stop No. 5 on the 2017 World Surf League Championship Tour, the Outerknown Fiji Pro. The women's event is up first, with a competitive window from May 28 - June 2, 2017, followed by the men's event which runs from June 4 - 16, 2017. The wildcards for the event have been set with Bethany Hamilton (HAW) and Yago Dora (BRA) joining the WSL Top 17 and 34 respectively.
Hamilton, global sporting icon and shark attack survivor, has been allocated the WSL wildcard for the event for the second year in a row. Since her traumatic shark attack at home in 2003 in which she lost her left arm, Hamilton has become an international sporting inspiration and a bonafide world-class surfer and this will be Hamilton's eighth CT appearance.
After an incredible performance at the event last year, which saw her make it to the Semifinals by blazing through the draw and causing a string of upsets along the way, Hamilton poses a considerable threat to the top seeds. Hamilton will face WSL Champion Tyler Wright (AUS) and Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW) in Heat 3 of Round 1.
"Last year was amazing, yet I know I have to focus and go into the event fresh; it is a new year and, as usual, competition will be tough," Hamilton said. "I feel like I'm surfing better than ever, so I can't help but be excited!"
Yago Dora (BRA) caused a sensation as a wildcard at the Oi Rio Pro where he wreaked havoc by eliminating three WSL Champions, Mick Fanning (AUS), Gabriel Medina (BRA) and John John Florence (HAW) en route to the Semifinals, where he was defeated by eventual winner Adriano De Souza (BRA).
"I'm very thankful that the WSL has given me the wildcard to compete in Fiji," Dora said. "Qualifying for the CT is my dream and another chance to surf against my heros in Fiji is unbelievable. I went to Fiji already this year to surf Cloudbreak. I didn't get it perfect, but I got an idea of what the waves can do. I can't wait for the event."
Fanning, three-time WSL Champion, was eliminated by Dora at Saquarema and had this to say about the young Brazilian:
"I only started hearing about him (Dora) a couple of years ago - little snippets here and there," Fanning said. "But to see him live...he's the real deal. He's a great surfer, and to take out as many World Champions as he did, that's not something to sneeze at. I think he has a bright future. He's only youn, and he's going to get really good. It's exciting. I really like seeing the young guys come up and throwing a cat amongst the pigeons."
Dora will take on current WSL No. 2 Jordy Smith (ZAF) and Kanoa Igarashi (USA) in Heat 5 of Round 1.
Tevita Gukilau (FJI) will complete the draw for the men's event after winning the local trials and will face reigning WSL Champion and current WSL No. 1 John John Florence (HAW) and Jack Freestone (AUS) in Round 1 Heat 6.
Surfline, official forecaster for the Outerknown Women's Fiji Pro, are calling for:
Minor surf is currently expected for the first couple days of the waiting period (Sun-Mon), with potential for small to fun SW swell on Wednesday. A better SW swell is possible for the end of the waiting period.
The events 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.
Outerknown Fiji Women's Pro Round 1 Match-Ups:
Heat 1: Courtney Conlogue (USA), Lakey Peterson (USA), Silvana Lima (BRA)
Heat 2: Johanne Defay (FRA), Sage Erickson (USA), Bronte Macaulay (AUS)
Heat 3: Tyler Wright (AUS), Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW), Bethany Hamilton (HAW)
Heat 4: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), Coco Ho (HAW), Bianca Buitendag (ZAF)
Heat 5: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), Keely Andrew (AUS), Pauline Ado (FRA)
Heat 6: Nikki Van Dijk (AUS), Carissa Moore (HAW), Laura Enever (AUS)
Outerknown Fiji Men's Pro Round 1 Match-Ups:
Heat 1: Kolohe Andino (USA), Frederico Morais (PRT), Jadson Andre (BRA)
Heat 2: Matt Wilkinson (AUS), Italo Ferreira (BRA), Joan Duru (FRA)
Heat 3: Owen Wright (AUS), Jeremy Flores (FRA), Ethan Ewing (AUS)
Heat 4: Adriano de Souza (BRA), Ezekiel Lau (HAW), Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA)
Heat 5: Jordy Smith (ZAF), Kanoa Igarashi (USA), Yago Dora (BRA)
Heat 6: John John Florence (HAW), Jack Freestone (AUS), Tevta Gukilau (FJI)
Heat 7: Joel Parkinson (AUS), Wiggolly Dantas (BRA), Nat Young (USA)
Heat 8: Gabriel Medina (BRA), Conner Coffin (USA), Stu Kennedy (AUS)
Heat 9: Julian Wilson (AUS), Connor O'Leary (AUS), Ian Gouveia (BRA)
Heat 10: Caio Ibelli (BRA), Michel Bourez (PYF), Miguel Pupo (BRA)
Heat 11: Sebastian Zietz (HAW), Mick Fanning (AUS), Bede Durbidge (AUS)
Heat 12: Adrian Buchan (AUS), Kelly Slater (USA), Josh Kerr (AUS)