After a dominating run through the Boost Mobile Margaret River Pro presented by Corona, two-time World Champion John John Florence has withdrawn from the event, as well as the remainder of the Australian leg of the Championship Tour, due to an injury to his left knee sustained during his Round of 16 heat against Brazilian Peterson Crisanto.
"It's not the same knee I dealt with last year, so that's good, but with the Olympics coming up this summer I'm going to focus on healing up and getting strong," Florence told the WSL.
Before the injury, Florence's surfing had positioned him as the clear front-runner to win at Margaret River. In the Seeding Round, he posted the first and only 10-point ride of the Men's 2021 CT season. And while he stumbled against rookie Morgan Cibilic in the two Australian events in New South Wales, he came into Western Australia third on the WSL Leaderboard and was happy to return the venue in which he's enjoyed so much competitive success.
"It feels super good, and it was cool to get a barrel like that out there," Florence said after his 10-pointer. "I wasn't really expecting that."
Florence was set to face California's Griffin Colapinto in the Quarterfinals when competition resumed.
Not only is the injury a huge disappointment to Florence's bid to compete for a World Title at the end-of-the-year Rip Curl WSL Finals, but it comes at a time when he was celebrating a major milestone with his new company, Florence Marine X. Less than 24 priors to the injury news, Florence had announced the released of his first line of surf wear.
"I'm really stoked to see this come to life!" wrote Florence on Instagram.
With the unfortunate exit of Florence from Margaret River, there are suddenly a slew of new storylines that present themselves. For starters, with current World Number 1 Gabriel Medina also out of the event, if Italo Ferreira should go on to win the event he will take over the yellow leader jersey and sit atop the WSL Leaderboard.
For Colapinto, who will now presumably advance into the Semifinals, it offers an opportunity to not just match his career-best result, but also potentially win his first CT event.
Colapinto, who his coming off of another Semifinal result at Narrabeen just a few weeks ago, currently finds himself tied with Filipe Toledo at eighth on the leaderboard. Both surfers are still in the draw and stand to move up into that coveted Final Five position if things come together for them at Main Break. Interestingly, both surfers also reside in San Clemente, home of the Rip Curl WSL Finals this September.
Colapinto will face the winner of the Ryan Callinan / Jordy Smith match-up. Callinan, who's enjoying the best season of his career, is going to be hard to beat. Next to Florence, he's been the in-form surfer of the event, applying his powerful backside attack with the precision of a surgeon.
There is a potential that Colapinto could meet his longtime friend and traveling partner Seth Moniz in the Final, but there's still a lot of surfing left to do before that dream becomes a reality.
At the moment, official forecast partners Surfline are watching Monday, May 10, for a possible Finals Day. Surfline's Kevin Wallis reports:
"Mid period SW to WSW swell should hold in the morning before easing over the afternoon. Improved surf with better wind likely. Light offshore ENE to NE wind through most of the morning trends light+ N to NW in the afternoon 6-8kts for a bit of crumble to light bump."
Stay tuned to the WorldSurfLeague.com for the next call on Saturday, May 8, at 7:15 a.m. AWST.