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Tour Veterans Face Early Elims

And we're off! The 2019 Championship Tour is officially underway and Round 1 provided both questions and answers about what we may expect to see this season.

One of the biggest developments on tour is the emergence of a cadre of hungry, hyper-talented, disruptive 20-somethings.

Similar to the emergence of the Momentum Generation in the early nineties which catapulted names like Slater, Machado, Dorian and Williams into the surf spotlight; and the rise of the Coolie Kids in the early aughts that shined a light on Fanning, Parko and Morrison; there's a new generation on the rise. With their early-round performances -- the field is officially on notice.

QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 3: Griffin Colapinto of Australia advances directly to Round 3 of the 2019 Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast after placing second in Heat 12 of Round 1 at Snapper Rocks on April 3, 2019 in Queensland, Australia.  (Photo by Matt Dunb Griff made a statement last year at Goldy with a 10-point triple barrel -- can he come back even louder this year? WSL / Matt Dunbar

Julian Wilson, the defending event champ, Jordy Smith, Kelly Slater and veteran Owen Wright all were sent packing to Round 2, where they'll face a potential early elimination.

"There's certain waves on tour that I'm clearly still dominating at, where the odds are in my favor and then there's other spots that other guys have dialed," explained Slater. "A small left going into the wind isn't in my wheelhouse. Guys like Gabriel Medina, Filipe Toledo, Yago Dora, Italo Ferreira - in my opinion those are the best air guys in the world. So, for me it's just figuring out how to win those heats." A humble moment from the King as he gazes at threats from all around.

Griffin Colapinto rolled over veteran Owen Wright in the opening heat of the day. With one year on tour under his belt, Colapinto is surfing with more experience and more confidence.

Passing Down The #7
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Rookie Moniz is feeling amped after inheriting his jersey number for Gold Coast legend Mick Fanning.

Hawaii's Seth Moniz made his CT debut with a commanding victory over Wilson and high-flying wildcard Reef Heazlewood by manufacturing scores in challenging beachbreak conditions.

"Honestly I couldn't fall asleep last night. I laid in bed for like two hours," smirked Moniz after winning his first heat as a CT competitor.

Meanwhile, wild-man rookie Mikey Wright lived up to his role of disrupter on tour, winning his Round 1 heat and handing two-time World Champ John John Florence a second-place heat finish.

QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 3: Mikey Wright of Australia advances directly to Round 3 of the 2019 Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast after winning Heat 12 of Round 1 at Snapper Rocks on April 3, 2019 in Queensland, Australia. (Photo by Matt Dunbar/WSL via Gett Mikey Wright spent the winter resting his back, now he's back to serve as the perfect disrupter against the old guard. WSL / Kelly Cestari

"That was just another heat. Even though I was up against John John Florence, it doesn't really matter. I'm just doing my thing," said Wright, who's only been back in the water for about a month after struggling with chronic back issues over the winter.

Always the wise sage, Slater was quick to remind everyone his mind is on the bigger picture -- the chance to go gold.

"The Olympics are playing a big part in my decision to continue surfing on tour or not. If there were no Olympics next year this would be my last year 100%. But at this point I'm just going to bide my time and see what happens," said Slater.

QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 3: 11X World Champion Kelly Slater of USA will surf in Round 2 of the 2019 Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast after placing third in Heat 3 of Round 1 at Duranbah Beach on April 3, 2019 in Queensland, Australia. (Photo by Kelly Cestar With a diapointing finish at Manly beach last month and a heat loss in Round 1, Slater is off to a slow start. But the Olympics are playing a big part in his decision to continue surfing on tour. WSL / Matt Dunbar

The three-man heats in Round 2 are going to be especially intriguing as Wilson, Smith, Slater and Wright could all be knocked out of the contest. As long as they can avoid a 3rd-place finish in Round 2 they'll advance on, but in the challenging beachbreak conditions at D-Bah -- anything can happen.

All three surfers came into the 2019 season with World Title aspirations, but to burn out early in the first contest of the year adds significant pressure and could make their respective Title campaigns an uphill battle as they'll already be saddled with a 33rd-place result, which presumably they would hope to drop at the end of the season.

World No. 1 Gabriel Medina Opens Big at Dbah
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With the yellow jersey emblazoned across his chest, Medina faced off against Callinan and Herdy in Round 1 Heat 6.

True to form, World Champ Gabriel Medina, came out swinging for the fences. Tallying the highest single wave score of the contest thus far with an 8.17 aerial maneuver, Medina edged out Ryan Callinan by less than half a point.

"I'm coming into the season with more experience after the last few years," said Medina after the heat. "With the start of the event, I feel like I'm back home. It's a new year. Everything is starting over. I'm just going to own it."

If Medina is going to "own it" this year and defend his Title, he's gonna have to hold off the youth movement -- even though he's only 24 himself -- which is certainly easier said than done as the newer faces on tour storm the beach looking to win.

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