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The all-Hawaiian Heat 4 started as predicted: John John Florence took off on an all-or-nothing air that didn't end as planned. Sebastian Zietz found the best barrel of the event to date, earning the first keeper score of the heat.
Florence took big risks, and, as a result, his heat total suffered for an extended period of time. Then, with 10 minutes remaining, he settled into a progressive line for an excellent score to force a lead change. Full of renewed confidence, he stomped out a clean, full-rotation air for a solid backup score and control of the heat. Seabass scoured the lineup for an eight-point opportunity but one would not present itself in time.
"I got the wind knocked out of me but after I felt good," Florence said, reflecting on his early wipeout. "The waves were pretty powerful so it ended up working real nice."
Result: Florence, 15.17, def. Zietz, 11.17
Michel Bourez and Matt Wilkinson got off to a sluggish start. Wilko took off with the restart horn, putting together clean carves for a four-pointer. The minor score held as the heat-high into the final 10 minutes of the affair.
The Tahitian struggled with positioning and clean finishes, which left him with negligible wave scores for the majority of the heat. Wilkinson found a similar ride to his opener for another four and earned the first solid score of the heat with 3 minutes remaining. With Bourez out of form, the Aussie advanced into Round 4.
"I really need a big result," Wilkinson said. "The heat before ours was absolutely pumping -- the girls were putting up bombs -- and then we ended up catching chest-high waves to cap it off and it's not what we expected."
Result: Wilkinson, 10.00, def. Michel Bourez, 5.60
Kolohe Andino opened his Round 3 campaign with an excellent score for his signature progressive surfing. Freddy Patacchia combined a three-floater ride with a midrange five to put himself within a second midrange score of a lead change. Andino upped the ante when he combined three fins-free hacks with a rail-grab and float section. The result put the Hawaiian in a combination situation with half a heat left.
Patacchia went for broke but he faltered on risky maneuvers and Andino prevailed.
"It's been fun competing against [Andino]," said Patacchia. "He's a respectful competitor -- I gave him space and he gave me space and we just got to surf. I don't think I had the best heat but I don't want to take anything away from Kolohe. He's shredding."
Result: Andino, 15.67, def. Patacchia, 12.23
Mick Fanning, who has more French wins than any elite surfer in the history of the contest, put two big numbers on the board early -- including one in the excellent range -- for a variety of progressive maneuvers. Dion Atkinson responded with two seven-point rides to remain in contention, needing to improve his bottom score slightly to overtake the reigning World Champion.
A crucial exchange unfolded with 5 minutes remaining. Atkinson carved up a glassy face and closed with a full rotation in the white water, while Fanning rode out the second wave of the set with the power he had been building from the start. Atkinson's score got into the excellent range but Fanning broke out power-carves to earn a 9.27 and won the heat.
"I threw everything I got at it," said a frustrated Atkinson. "I did all I could and came up short again in Round 3 and I'll hopefully build this momentum and keep going."
Result: Fanning, 17.27, def. Atkinson, 16.53
Kai Otton established an early lead with a flawless ride to open his campaign. Pires struggled to find clean finishes, holding a 5.50 high score as the clock ticked past the halfway point.
Otton matched his keeper for slicing up another righthander. A lead change was not out of reach, but Pires continued to lose his board on closeout sections. He managed a second midrange score but was still hunting a seven as time ran out.
"To be honest I haven't been confident in free surfing," Otton said after his heat win. "It was nice to get through that heat, but I still felt really shaky."
Result: Otton, 13.00, def. Pires, 11.10
Filipe Toledo, known for his above-the-lip prowess, was the first to launch an aerial game, putting up a frontside grab for an excellent 8.50. Adam Melling was awarded a similar excellent score late in the heat for a very different ride. The Aussie found an 8.10 for three critical carves and a clean float section to force a crucial lead change.
Toledo approached his last-ditch effort started with traditional carves and finished with a clean rotation. His big air and his flawless ride at the buzzer forced a final lead change, earning him a spot in Round 3.
"I've been watching a lot of guys try do some huge airs," Toledo said, naming John John John Florence and Jadson Andre, among others. "I went for the air with enough speed to go high but the wind helped me keep my board."
Result: Toledo, 16.00, def. Melling, 15.77
Both surfers in the opening men's heat struggled to adjust to Hossegor's shifting conditions. Mitch Crews saw an opportunity to start the air game but faltered on the landing. Sebastian Zietz held onto the lead with minor scores and a top score a 4.83.
Solid sets arrived at the 10-minute mark as an offshore wind opened the faces to allow for big maneuvers. Zietz took advantage with powerful vertical hacks and forced a lead change with 5 minutes remaining. The rookie went for broke, hoping for a clean exit on his airs but remained in second position through to the horn.
"It's hard when you're in Round 2 and you really need a result so I went in pretty nervous," said Seabass. "Hopefully I can take that win and kind of calm myself down."
Result: Zietz, 12.60, def. Crews, 10.50