- WSL / Kenneth Morris
- WSL / Kenneth Morris

After a high-pressure day at the men's Surf Ranch Pro, the top eight have been locked in and are bound for the final on Sunday.

Gabriel Medina continues to hold the pole position and status as event favorite, while Julian Wilson and Kanoa Igarashi sit in second and third, respectively.

Kelly Slater Returns to the Action
The 11x World Champ is welcomed back into the top 8 of the Surf Ranch Pro with a combined heat total of 15.77 (8.5 + 7.27).

Additionally, the king remains in his castle for another day. Kelly Slater's surgical and strategic backhand flow netted him a 7.27 and backed up his initial qualifying performance. The 11x World Champ sits in the six spot for finals day.

"Once you drop out of eighth the pressure changes. I dropped down into ninth and was like, ‘Okay, here we go,'" said Slater. "It's not hard to get a 6.3 or 6.4 on a left, but it's easy to fall. That's where the pressure is."

Medina applied the pressure at the end of the day yesterday, but didn't do much with his two waves today, falling on both attempts.

Julian Wilson Set for Finals Day
The Australian impressed judges and audience with new maneuvers, closing out the Qualifying Round of the Surf Ranch Pro with a 17.27 (8.67 + 8.6).

"We're all bunched up, but Medina is still the favorite, I think," continued Slater. "Here you have to be able to switch it up on demand and I think Medina does that the best."

Meanwhile, Wilson found his form. After a lackluster performance on his initial four waves yesterday, he responded with a pair of clutch 8-point rides, taking to the air on both the right and left to rocket into second place in the Qualifying Round.

"To be honest, I didn't watch any surfing today," admitted Wilson. "I had no idea what's been happening, but there are some big scores on the board and I knew I had some work to do to catch up."

Julian Wilson (AUS) has a points total of 15.00 (out of a possible 20.00) after his Qualifying Run 1 and Run 2 at the 2018 Surf Ranch Pro in Lemoore, CA, USA. Julian Wilson - WSL / Kelly Cestari

With the pressure to advance fully ratcheted up, the surfers were pushing themselves to their limits to get the scores they needed. Sometimes the effort paid off, sometimes it didn't - out of the 72 waves ridden today, just over half were completed.

For those that made it all the way to the end bowl, there were definitely points to be earned. It certainly worked for Wilson, he skipped the tube and opted for the air on both of his high-scoring waves.

Miguel Pupo also aired his way to Finals Day, and Sebastian Zietz built upon his pocket 8.67 with a lip-bashing left that also qualified him for the final.

Miguel Pupo Enters Top 8
The Brazilian earned an 8.43 on his final wave of the Qualifying Round for a combined total of 15.56 (7.13 + 8.43) at the Surf Ranch Pro.

"After my first few runs I was kind of disappointed because I thought I was going to get good scores. Unfortunately, I wasn't connecting to my turns the way I should have," explained Pupo. "I went back and watched a lot of footage and I kind of picked up that you have to go for it."

Owen Wright and World No. 1 Filipe Toledo will round out the final. Both of them put themselves in position on the leaderboard yesterday and were able to maintain their spots thanks to improved scores on the left.

Owen Wright (AUS) during his Qualifying Run 1 and 2 at the 2018 Surf Ranch Pro in Lemoore, CA, USA. Owen Wright - WSL / Sean Rowland

"I'm definitely feeling more relaxed today," said Toledo. "If you miss those first waves there's a lot of pressure, but I feel good now, happy."

Watch live tomorrow starting at 8:30 am. PDT on Worldsurfleague.com, App and Facebook. All surfers have now completed their first two Runs of the Qualifying Round. They will surf in their final Qualifying Run tomorrow, with Finals day on Sunday.

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