Kelly Slater vs. Gabriel Medina
The highly anticipated Final saw two of the most strategic surfers on Tour do battle. Gabriel Medina, the current No. 1 surfer in the world, faced Kelly Slater, the surfer with the most wins in history.
After a restart, the Brazilian took the lead with a 7.90 and then a 9.07. Then, in an uncharacteristic mistake, Slater paddled for a wave but pulled back, losing priority. For the next 14 minutes, it seemed like Medina was in total control of the heat.
Slater got back in the game with a massive, hollow barrel, taking a high line and getting spat out the other side to a roaring crowd. The ride earned him a 9.63. Medina answered back almost immediately though, charging through another steep barrel for a 9.53.
In the second half each surfer took a spill. For Medina it was the first time he'd fallen during the competition. Slater managed to narrow the points gap, but with three minutes left still needed a 9.33 to overtake his opponent. Slater took off on a huge wave but got caught by the foam. Then, with fewer than 30 seconds left he tried again, sliding into and completing a wave that Medina had let go.
Some tense moments elapsed after the heat ended as the judges considered Slater's final ride. But in the end he earned a 9.30, coming up a mere .03 short and giving Medina the Billabong Pro Tahiti victory in epic conditions.
"I don't really know what to say," said Medina after his win. Before the Final, he said, "I went home to talk to my mom, and the words she said inspired me: 'No one is bigger than God.' And I trust in God. I think that was him. I am so blessed to have these conditions at Chopes. I'm so happy right now."
"Kelly is a legend of surfing," Medina continued. "When I fell off, I thought I had lost that heat. But I thank God. This is the best feeling ever."
Results: Gabriel Medina, 18.96 def. Kelly Slater, 18.93
SF2: Kelly Slater (USA) vs. John John Florence (HAW)
Semifinal 2 pit old school against new with the event's most dominant chargers in a face-off for a spot in the Final. The split was a Perfect 10 to a 9.90 with the nod going the way of the veteran.
The midway point of the heat saw a lead change as the 11-time World Champion belted a 9.77 to bring him within three-hundredths of a point of a perfect heat total. Florence improved his bottom score to a 9.40 but needed to be perfect to take out Slater. Florence powered through a drainer with 30 seconds remaining. His score came up short by 0.01. With the pocket 10, in accordance with the ASP Rulebook. Slater got the nod for holding the highest single-wave score for the tiebreaker in a heat for the history books.
Florence's run in Tahiti saw him score 10 nine-point rides and a Perfect 10.
Results: Kelly Slater, 19.77, def. John John Florence, 19.77
SF1: Bede Durbidge (AUS) vs. Gabriel Medina (BRA)
The Brazilian phenom Gabriel Medina opened strong with a 9.67, putting Bede Durbidge on the defense from the get-go. Medina upped the ante yet again with a 9.00 for a combined 18.67. His wave choice was key as he managed to make two long waves in hollow tubes.
Durbidge charged as well but at one point took a big fall and needed a ski assist the get back to the lineup.
Ultimately, Durbidge couldn't match Medina's scores, and his Tahiti campaign was complete.
"It's just too good," Medina said. "I'm having fun. I'm stoked to be in the Final."
Results: Gabriel Medina, 18.67 def. Bede Durbidge, 4.17
QF 4: Kelly Slater (USA) vs. Owen Wright (AUS)
With the wind picking up, Kelly Slater and Owen Wright entered the lineup to vie for the last spot in the Semis. Slater had the first clean finish of the heat, notching a 9.00 on a bomb. Wright's first keeper came in as an excellent 8.00 but Slater went below sea level for a near-perfect 9.80.
Looking for a bigger score, Wright took off on a monster. In a jaw-dropping wipeout, the Aussie disappeared beneath the white water, surfacing beaten but not defeated. A board swap and paddle back had commentators murmuring about A.I. award eligibility. But in the main event, Wright had half a heat to tally two new scores.
Slater reached perfection at the midway point, draining a triple-overhead barrel through to the channel. Wright captured a second excellent score but two eights were still not enough to dig out of the combo.
Results: Kelly Slater, 19.80, def. Owen Wright, 16.10
QF3: John John Florence (HAW) vs. Dion Atkinson (AUS)
Both John John Florence set the tone for Quarterfinal 3 with a seemingly relaxed 9.80. Dion Atkinson snagged a couple of respectable scores but before the halfway mark, Florence had another nine-point ride under his belt to secure a solid lead.
With just minutes left on the clock, Atkinson got out of his combo situation with a nine-point ride of his own. But the rookie's return to a fighting scoreline was short-lived. Florence pulled one of the steepest drops of the day to extend his lead and secure himself a spot in the Semis.
"The waves has been getting better all day," Florence said. "I just want to go out there and get more sets. When the channels is erupting like this, you kind of have to go on one."
Results: John John Florence, 19.67 def. Dion Atkinson, 17.76
QF 2: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. Kolohe Andino (USA)
Sitting far apart but following each other's every move, Gabriel Medina and Kolohe Andino started the second Quarterfinal heat in a tense stalemate. ASP judge Rich Porta declined to call a restart, deeming that rideable waves had passed while the surfers refused to relinquish positioning. For more than 15 minutes, a strategic battle kept the scores at zero.
The stillness ended at the 18-minute mark with the surfers logging matching 6.50s. Medina's follow-up put him a midrange score ahead of his competitor. Andino answered with an 8.77 but the yellow jersey had stormed the first wave of the set for a 9.57. Medina prevailed and was headed into his third Semifinal heat of the season.
"I had my strategy and worked it so I'm pretty stoked," Medina said.
Result: Gabriel Medina (BRA), 17.27, def. Kolohe Andino (USA), 15.27
QF 1: Adrian Buchan (AUS) vs. Bede Durbidge (AUS)
Defending Tahiti champ Ace Buchan set the bar early with a 9.70, and quickly followed up with an 8.73 to establish a strong lead.
But Bede Durbidge answered back with a deep, hollow pit that earned him a 9.87 and helped kickstart his rhythm. His next barrel scored him a Perfect 10 and accelerated him into the lead. The incredible ride also put his high-scoring opponent in a combo situation, an unusual predicament with such big tallies.
Despite his strong start, Buchan couldn't find the waves to make up the difference. In the end, he ceded a spot in the Semis to his fellow Aussie.
"I'm just getting more and more comfortable and wanting the bigger ones every time I paddled back out," Durbidge said. "I caught a big flogging and after that I thought, 'Well, that's the worst it could be so I might as well go for it now.'"
Results: Bede Durbidge, 19.87 def. Adrian Buchan, 19.00
Heat 4: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Brett Simpson (USA)
Owen Wright came out fearless in Round 5. It paid off on his first wave, putting competitor Brett Simpson immediately on guard with a solid 7.67 start. He was sucked over the lip on his second takeoff, but his commitment to what was arguably the biggest air drop of the contest so far earned him a four-point backup score, just a point 0.33 below the clean opener from Simpson. A completion on wave three left Simpo hunting for a near-perfect score.
From there, Wright improved his bottom score with every ride. By the two-minute mark he had reached perfection, notching a Perfect 10 with two nines in the wake.
Result: Owen Wright, 19.87, def. Brett Simpson, 12.83
Heat 3: Kai Otton (AUS) vs. Dion Atkinson (AUS)
The rookie was going for it, too, but took one of the day's biggest poundings along the way. Atkinson was caught in a two-wave hold down before making it out of peril.
With Otton having extended his lead, Atkinson was looking to make up the gap and too off on a huge tube on a late-heat exchange. The ride earned a 9.43 to take give Atkinson the lead. In the final moments he scored yet another deep tube, steeper and even more hollow, earning a 9.90 and the heat upset.
"It's been a pretty long year with not making too many heats," Atkinson said. "At the start of that heat there were a lot of big ones. I got flogged and realized that's as bad as it will get so I got back on the horse."
Results: Dion Atkinson, 19.33 def. Kai Otton, 14.77
Heat 2: Kolohe Andino (USA) vs. Tiago Pires (PRT)
Kolohe Andino came out charging, committing to a massive drainer for a 9.63. Tiago Pires waited for a softer wave but ended up ahead of the white water. A midrange five for Andino's backup left Pires in dire straits at the halfway point.
Pires faltered on his late-heat take-offs and short lull kept scores stagnant for the majority of the final 10 minutes. A set rolled through with two minutes remaining, and Andino used priority to keep Pires off the last scoring opportunity of the heat.
"This morning I jumped off the ski," said Andino. "It was still dark and I got pounded into the lagoon before anyone was even here. So I got that out of the way."
In terms of the fear factor, he added, "I just want to win. Damien Hobgood told me, [no matter the wave size] you still have to pick the right wave, and play a smart heat and that's what I've been trying to do."
Result: Kolohe Andino, 15.53, def. Tiago Pires, 6.16
Heat 1: Bede Durbidge (AUS) vs. Michel Bourez (PYF)
Bede Durbidge and Michel Bourez engaged in the first Round 5 battle. The pair exchanged waves, each scoring midrange numbers to open. At the halfway point, Bourez led by a thin margin, holding a 14.66 to Durbidge's 13.60.
The Tahitian found his rhythm, loosening up as the heat went on. Durbidge found his as footing well, taking a couple of bigger, deeper barrels to replace his scores and take the lead. When the horn sounded, the local saw another year at his home event slip by without a podium visit.
Results: Bede Durbidge, 15.40 def. Michel Bourez, 14.66
Heat 4: Kelly Slater (USA) vs. Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Dion Atkinson (AUS)
Not to be outdone by the young John John Florence, Kelly Slater picked up right where he left off. His first wave came in at a 9.67, his seventh nine of his past 10 rides. Rookie Dion Atkinson bettered the opening exchange between himself and Owen Wright, registering a midrange five, but both surfers remained in combo situations with 20 minutes on the clock.
Wright was the first to register a new keeper, belting an excellent 8.67 on a drainer at the midway point. Slater's second nine was close behind, though, negating Wright's effort. For good measure, the 11-time Champ closed with a 9.17.
"This is what you live for," Slater said. "There are quite a few waves that are tow-waves. It's flawless today. You'd be silly not to be scared ... but you've got to pick and choose."
"It's easy for your heartbeat to go through the roof," he continued. "You've just got breathe ... and [it also depends on] what position you're at in the heat. ...I was in a good position, and didn't want to take myself out."
Results: Kelly Slater 19.44 vs. Owen Wright, 16.74, vs. Dion Atkinson, 12.50
Heat 3: Brett Simpson (USA) vs. John John Florence (HAW) vs. Kai Otton (AUS)
Coming off of his first heat win of the season, Brett Simpson was up against two of the best barrel experts on the WCT. John John Florence and Kai Otton scored Round 3's Perfect 10s, setting up a stacked field.
Following a mind-blowing Sunday performance, Florence scored the first nine-pointer of the day after a steep drop on his opening ride. He quickly followed it up with a high eight to take a solid lead. Simpson took a quick ride for a small score, while Otton took a huge fall at the bottom of a massive barrel.
With just minutes left on the clock, Florence retained the lead and earned the skip to the Quarterfinals.
"You want to get a big one, but some of the big ones that come through there's no entry," Florence said. "That moment when you make the decision to go and realize it's not makable, that's the scariest thing about today."
Results: John John Florence, 18.16, vs. Kai Otton, 12.10, vs. Brett Simpson, 8.67
Heat 2: Kolohe Andino (USA) vs. Bede Durbidge (AUS) vs. Gabriel Medina (BRA)
After a cautious start to the round, a heavyweight battle ensued as Gabriel Medina, Bede Durbidge and Kolohe Andino entered the lineup. The rankings leader took a casual drop into a glassy left for an excellent 8.50 to open his campaign. Andino and Durbidge had minimal scoring in the first 10 minutes as Medina continued to storm, finding complete cover and emerging with the spit for another high eight.
Brother Andino was the first to climb out of the combo situation, notching a 7.57 for a hollow tube ride with ample cover just under the 15-minute mark. He matched it with an excellent 8.00 for a standup run behind the curtain but only slightly lowered the nine-point ride needed to overtake the lead. A last-ditch effort came up short, giving Medina the go ahead into the Quarterfinals.
"It's pretty big out there," Medina said after the heat. "I was looking for the middle ones that you can get deeper. It's real big out there. I had fun against Kolohe and Bede. I'm stoked to make it."
In terms of the rankings, the current No. 1 said, "I'm not thinking about it. I'm just surfing, worried about getting my waves. It's so fun out there, I've never surfed waves like this before. I'm enjoying."
Heat 1: Tiago Pires (PRT) vs. Adrian Buchan (AUS) vs. Michel Bourez (PYF)
Ace Buchan took the first wave of the day with a clean exit and a midrange 5.83. As No. 5 and the only Tahitian on tour, Michel Bourez had pressure to perform on home turf, but opened the day with a tremendous wipeout. Tiago Pires nabbed a few small scores, warming up in a tentative first heat of the day.
By the final five minutes, Bourez had found his rhythm, clearly more at ease as the heat went on. After a handful of lead changes, the Tahitian led the pack courtesy of a 7.50. But the defending event champion fought back with a claim-worthy wave to score an 8.83 and retake the lead. Bourez answered with a massive drop, but Buchan retained the highest scoreline and earned the green light into the Quarters.
"You just gotta trust your instincts and your ability," Buchan said. "The swell's kicked out a bit from yesterday afternoon so I pretty much packed the boat with everything I got. To have a heat like this with Michel and Tiago is a dream."
Results: Adrian Buchan, 14.66, vs. Michel Bourez, 13.73, vs. Tiago Pires, 6.84