The men's contest in France is the first stop on the European leg of the World Championship Tour (WCT) and with it begins the homestretch of the Title Race. With the Top 34's rankings shifts, the Quiksilver Pro France could have serious implications for both requalification and the World Title race. Among the surfers currently in the Men's WCT Top 5, four have previously won in France -- the exception is No. 5 Michel Bourez (PYF) -- and arrive in Hossegor with distinct advantages.
Current ratings leader Gabriel Medina (BRA) is on track to become the first Brazilian World Champion. While his equal-fifth finish at Trestles narrowed the points gap between the top five men on Tour, France has been good to Medina. He registered a perfect heat at the 2009 Quiksilver King of the Groms. When he qualified for the WCT midway through the 2011 season, the Quiksilver Pro France was the first event he entered and he put the world on notice when he topped all competitors. Last year he finished runner-up, narrowly losing in the Final to eventual World Champion Mick Fanning (AUS). A reversal of this result would, as it did with Fanning, place him on the fast track for the Title.
Like Medina, Kelly Slater (USA) has conquered France more than once, but there's been a big gap in his success. His first two victories in France were in 1992, the year he won his first World Title, and in 1996, when he won another. After that, he didn't manage a French win for 16 years, until his infamous 2012 face-off against new-school wunderkind Dane Reynolds (USA) in heavy barrels at La Graviere.
Australian Joel Parkinson (AUS) defeated Fanning in the 2006 Quik Pro Final, when his progressive style was on full display. While his competitors faltered throughout the event, Parkinson managed to score an excellent 8.83 for a double tube and a huge air. The crowd roared. This year, Parkinson has yet to win an event despite making two Finals. That hunger, combined with experience in France, could mean danger for Slater, who sits just 3,000 points ahead of the Aussie threat.
Mick Fanning (AUS), the reigning World Champion, is trailing the other past event winners in rankings points. But he also has more wins in France than any surfer in the history of the country's elite contests, with event titles in 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2013.
The Quiksilver Pro France has a waiting period from Thursday September 25 through Monday, October 6. ASP will stream the daily call and competition heats LIVE.