With more east in the swell, the waves were lining up a bit better for Day Two of the Rip Curl Narrabeen Classic presented by Corona. It was still a case of finding a diamond in the closeout rough, but there were more of them, with some classic lefts reeling down the bank as well as some punchy rights.
Italo And Top Seeds Assert Their Dominance
Right now it's hard to think of any surfer in the world who was going to beat Italo Ferreira in a punchy left-hand beach break with a rampy end-section, but three-time World Champion Mick Fanning, who came out of retirement to take the wildcard slot, gave it a serious crack. He matched whip-fast turns against Ferreira airs, but the high-flying Brazilian's approach proved to be too much in the end.
This isn't the first time the 2019 World Champion has spoiled a Fanning fairytale. The two faced off in the Final of Fanning's last Championship Tour event as a full-time competitor, the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach -- and Ferreira won then, too.
"That was a special heat and I knew it would be a good challenge and I am so glad to have two good waves and make it happen," Ferreira said after advancing to the Round of 16. Still, Ferreira never seems too phased by whoever he comes up against in the draw.
"I'm just thinking about catching waves and doing my job, i'm not thinking about the other guy," he said.
Wright Survives Elimination Round
World no.2 Tyler Wright won her Elimination Round heat, keeping her run alive. Afterwards, she revealed more details about a fractured ankle she has had to content with. By her own admission, everything was stacked against her today, surfing a left-hander, after a bout of illness and the injured foot. But she got the job done in style.
"I had a bit of a lung infection that took me out of the water in Hawaii, then got home and fractured an ankle -- still got a fractured ankle -- and then I've been sick again, so frankly I get a bit frustrated that I haven't been able to do my job and really work on the level that I really want to be at going left," Wright said in her post-heat interview.
"Recovery time, I was told between six and 12 weeks. I probably should have been in a boot for a couple of weeks, but I have a really good team that can help me through these things," she said.
Top Seeds Progress, More Upsets
The other top seeds to progress today were Gabriel Medina and John John Florence. But there was also another upset care of giant-killer Morgan Cibilic, who surfed all the way to the Semifinals in Newcastle. Today he knocked Julian Wilson out of the event, staying ice-cold and composed while he waited for waves during an extended lull. Is he feeling the nerves yet?
"I felt pretty ready for that heat, but in my first heat, when I was versing Mick and Italo I was the most nervous I've been in a long time, I don't know if it was because I was versing Mick or it just felt like I had a bit of pressure on me coming off that result [in Newcastle].
"In this heat I felt pretty calm and ready, and hopefully I can keep it that way for the rest of the event," Ciblic said.
Defay Flexes On Her Backhand
We only saw four heats of women's surfing today, but it was all we needed to see as Johanne Defay let everyone know she's a contender. Growing up on Reunion Island, Defay has spent plenty of time surfing one of the world's great lefts on her backhand, St Leu. Today at Narrabeen, it showed.
Defay racked up a pair of 8.33 rides for the highest two-wave total of the event so far. Featuring big, powerful backhand hits, she is looking especially solid and confident on her heelside rail. She's going to be dangerous if she can keep hammering those Narrabeen lefts.
Battle Of The Backhand Air Reverse
Speaking of backhand power moves, in the second heat of the men's Elimination Round, all three surfers threw big backside air reverses. First it was Leonardo Fioravanti, then Jack Freestone hucked the biggest, most tail-high version for the first excellent score of the event (8.17), but the local wildcard Dylan Moffat had got the memo, too, and boosted his own for a 7.33. That was three solid airs from three natural-footers on the left, and in the end Leonardo found himself out of the event. Unfortunately for Freestone, he was given his walking papers in the next round at Brazil's Jadson Andre knocked him out of the event.
What To Look For
When competition resumes we've got ourselves a huge grudge match as tough-to-beat rookie Cibilic is back up against two-time World Champ Florence in the Round of 16. No one expected Cibilic to beat Florence in Newcastle, but he proved he's capable. Can he do it a second time?
For the women, Defay, who has been in top form on her backhand will be up against Wright, who's nursing an injured ankle but has shown she's still determined to win. Meanwhile, reigning World Champ Carissa Moore will have her hands full with an in-form Brisa Hennessy in the first heat of the Round of 16, and seven-time World Champ Stephanie Gilmore will look to keep her run going against the always dangerous Sage Erickson.