Our wait is nearly over. With new swell heading toward the Fijian islands Round Three of the Outerknown Fiji Pro could get underway as early as Tuesday in Fiji, with Wednesday and Thursday looking even better for the likely finish. With 20 surfers left in the competition, there are plenty of intriguing matches ahead, starting with Mick Fanning vs. Michel Bourez, who will kick things off when competition resumes.
Fanning is just settling into his 2017 stride, hot off fifth place finishes at Bells and Brazil. Meanwhile, Bourez's backside stall technique went viral last week. He's been breaking down the finer points for fans during the long break. The Tahitian is a dangerous draw in any situation, but especially powerful in left barrels.
Jeep Leader John John Florence will follow in a match against rookie Leonardo Fioravanti, who celebrated his first heat win of the year last week. It's an important heat for both surfers, with Florence protecting a tiny lead and Fioravanti fighting for CT survival at this point.
Jordy Smith, who's just 350 points behind John John on the Jeep Leaderboard, is up against rookie Joan Duru of France. The powerful goofyfooter has struggled to gain momentum this year, but he can't be overlooked at Cloudbreak.
Kelly Slater is always one to watch at Cloudbreak. With nearly 30 years of experience at the famed reef, not to mention four wins, he enters every heat as the favorite. The underdog this time is Connor O'Leary, who's leading the Rookie of the Year race to date.
Joel Parkinson has expressed his desire to get a Fiji win that's eluded him, but he's got a tough match ahead in Round Three with Jeremy Flores. Flores, who grew up surfing a perfect left reef on Reunion Island, is in his element in a place like Tavarua, and it's been showing. This will be a battle.
Kolohe Andino is trying hard to stay in the World Title race. He's fallen out of the Top 5 after bombing out in Brazil, and is looking to turn things around. But Bede Durbidge is in the process of a much bigger turnaround. He's continuing to build strength after another off-season procedure that has helped him a great deal.
Sebastian Zietz was one of the biggest standouts of Round Two. He'll be hoping to keep his backhand tube mastery on point against Wiggolly Dantas, who edged out Jadson Andre in his Round Two heat. That will be a backside vs. frontside clash.
Round Three will wrap with a match between Adriano de Souza and Stu Kennedy. De Souza is one of the biggest hidden threats in Fiji, and is looking to stay on pace with Florence here. His speed and power are a good match for the hollow left. Kennedy, however, built his reputation on pulling upsets. He edged Ezekiel Lau in Round Two, and is hoping to keep things rolling.
The next call is just hours away, when the sun comes up in the South Pacific on Tuesday morning at 7:30 a.m. FJT. There may be some high tide issues early on, but there's a great chance of competition running.