The preliminary rounds of the Vans World Cup of Surfing wrapped up with the conclusion of Round 2. Upset eliminations and standout performances from the Qualification Series (QS) contenders made for an exciting day at Sunset Beach as competitors looked to make ground in their campaigns to join the 2015 World Championship Tour (WCT).
Australia's Jack Freestone suffered a critical defeat in Round 2, one that may dash his hopes of qualifying for the elite Tour in 2015. Brazilians Jesse Mendes and Willian Cardoso also slipped up in the double-to-triple-overhead surf on offer. Their collective fate now rests with a handful of surfers who remain in contention at Sunset and have the ability to overtake them on the QS rankings with solid results. Among them are Joan Duru (FRA), Charly Martin (GLP), Ricardo Christie (NZL) and Dusty Payne (HAW), each of whom advanced out of Round 2.
The two youngest competitors of the Vans World Cup -- 16-year-olds Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) and Seth Moniz (HAW), emerged as the top standouts in Round 2. Fioravanti bolted out of the gates in Heat 3 with an incredible combination of scores, including a 9.07, for a total of 16.17 that remains the top heat score of the event so far. Fioravanti has the potential to qualify if he can reach the Semifinals or Final of this event. The Vans World Cup of Surfing is the final QS event of the year and with its Prime-rating carries vital points.
"I just tried to stay wide and (the others) were kind of getting caught really deep," said Fioravanti. "I got two waves, one with about four turns and that was pretty much my heat after 10 minutes."
The young Italian continued: "It would mean the world to me and to Italy for me to qualify. There's never really been a surfer from Italy that's gone this far. I hope I can keep going. I have so much support from back home, so that's good. Hopefully we keep getting some good waves and luck will go my way."
Moniz nailed the best barrel of the day, hanging on by his toenails in a mountain of whitewater to be awarded a 9.17 and a heat win over Alex Smith (HAW), Carlos Munoz (CRI) and Santiago Muniz (BRA). He will face off against high seeds Josh Kerr (AUS) and Brett Simpson (USA) in the next round.
Payne, winner of the first stage of the Vans Triple Crown, the Reef Hawaiian Pro, remained in solid form today. Payne is looking to finish in at least 13th place here to qualify for the 2015 Tour. His uphill battle will intensify in Round 3 when he faces World No. 1 Gabriel Medina (BRA), Dane Gudauskas (USA) and Connor O'Leary (AUS).
"I've had so much time out of the water, so any day I'm surfing is a good day," said Payne. "I'm not even going to start thinking about qualification or a Triple Crown title, as great as it would be. I'm just really enjoying being in these events in great waves."
Former World Champion Joel Parkinson (AUS) was scheduled to enter the event in Round 3 Heat 1 but is now out after sustaining a back injury while freesurfing at Backdoor Pipe today. Parkinson was pressed into the reef by two large waves and is headed to hospital for injury assessment. He was still talking and mobile, but in considerable pain. As Parkinson entered the ambulance, he stated: "I'm out of Sunset, but I will be back for Pipe!" Yadin Nichol (AUS) will take his place in this event.
Among the highest-rated surfers to join the event in Round 3 in addition to Kerr and Medina are Michel Bourez (PYF), Jordy Smith (ZAF) and Bede Durbidge (AUS). Organizers anticipate a continuation of solid surf and are hoping for a 8 a.m. start Wednesday morning local time.