The Volcom Fiji Pro relocated to the flawless lefthander of Restaurants today for an incredible 17 heats of competition, running the remainder of Round 1, Round 2 and the first three heats of Round 3 in perfect six-to-eight foot (2 metre) barrels.
Stop No. 4 of 10 on the 2013 ASP World Championship Tour (WCT), today's Volcom Fiji Pro hosted a bevy of amazing performances from the ASP Top 34, led by a near-perfect heat from young Hawaiian John John Florence (HAW), 20.
Florence was incredible in the freight-training barrels at Restaurants, posting a perfect 10-point ride and 9.80 for astonishing backhand surfing. The Hawaiian's Round 2 victory punctuated his return to competition following his absence from the ASP WCT since a severe ankle injury sustained on the Gold Coast.
"That's the best the waves have been since I've been here," Florence said. "The waves just turned on for my heat. Restaurants is just a perfect wave. It's such a machine and with these winds every wave's just perfect. You can really just sit in the barrel the whole way."
Florence would go on to edge out two-time Fiji winner Damien Hobgood (USA), 33, in a close Round 3 battle this afternoon and advance to Round 4.
Nat Young (USA), 21, current ASP WCT Rookie and No. 6 on this year's rankings, dominated his Round 2 affair against fellow rookie Filipe Toledo (BRA), 18, putting together a near-perfect heat of his own. Young looked at home on his forehand at Restaurants, driving through several deep barrels across the point, earning a 9.20 and 9.03 to take the win.
"Those could have been the best waves I've ever surfed," Young said. "We're sitting at pool on this perfect island so it's pretty much paradise. For me, I'd never been here so it was important to come early and get practice at both spots (Cloudbreak and Restaurants). It was tough this morning with the devil winds and in that heat it was picture perfect. Right now, you just stand there and get the best barrels ever. It's so much fun."
Joel Parkinson (AUS), 32, reigning ASP World Champion and current ASP WCT No. 8, rebounded after missing his Round 1 heat, delivering committed barrel-rides and massive backhand turns over the shallow Restaurants reef. Parkinson was rewarded a 9.33 and 9.10 for his efforts in his Round 2 victory over dangerous Hawaiian Dusty Payne (HAW), 24.
"Restaurants is a perfect wave," Parkinson said. "It has a really good line to it and when you come over a set and see next one, you get butterflies when a good one is coming. I was looking for the barrels out there in that heat, but the bigger ones were chattery and bumpy. You've really got to find the medium sized waves out there. If you get the medium one you can get nice long drainers."
Taj Burrow (AUS), 35, contributed to the day's high-scoring affair while taking out two heat wins. The veteran earned a scrappy Round 2 nod over Adam Melling (AUS), 28, eventually scoring two excellent rides in flawless afternoon conditions against Fred Patacchia (HAW), 31, to the tune of 18.10 out of 20 while advancing to Round 4.
Sebastian Zietz (HAW), 25, earned an amazing come-from-behind victory in Round 2 over Adrian Buchan (AUS), 30. In need of an 8.90 with just five seconds remaining on the clock, Zietz drove through a seemingly impossible tube, earning an 8.93 out of 10 for the ride to edge out the Australian goofy-footer.
"It was a small wave and I figured I'd go and try and get the score," Zietz said. "I took off and thought I blew the heat. Then I had one section and I came out and I just tried to keep dragging it. I drove through that other section and was able to come out. I wasn't sure if I was going to get the score or not."
Jordy Smith (ZAF), 25, winner of the last event in Rio de Janeiro, returned to form after a Round 1 stumble, topping ASP WCT Rookie Glenn Hall (IRL), 31, in windy afternoon conditions to advance to Round 3.
"It's extremely windy," Smith said. "It was really tough to find the open barrels and when the sets came through the wave would barrel and pinch. You had to pick the right waves. I got lucky on one and managed to find a barrel and get two nice turns. Micro (Glenn Hall) did the full scorpion on his last wave and landed on the reef. Hopefully he's okay. Overall, I had a few nice waves and I'm stoked to advance to the next round."
Smith would go on to defeat Kieren Perrow (AUS), 35, in Round 3, simultaneously surpassing Adriano de Souza (BRA), 26, for the coveted No. 1 position on the ASP WCT Rankings.
Kelly Slater (USA), 41, 11-time ASP World Champion and current ASP WCT No. 4, also found his form after a Round 1 absence, taking out his Round 2 heat against local wildcard Aca Lalabalavu (FJI) despite a valiant effort from the Fijian.
"That was tough because we had that lull in my heat," Slater said. "Me and Aca (Lalabalavu) never got to a good start and missed the best waves of the heat. I didn't get to see any of Aca's waves in my heat, but I figured I've surfed with him enough to know that he can put together a bunch of turns and barrels on a wave. To be honest, I had some nerves in that heat and I made some funny decisions. I know the waves, but you forget things when you haven't been free surfing here a lot. It can get a little tricky, but it comes back pretty quick."
Yadin Nicol (AUS), 27, current alternate on the ASP WCT, delivered the upset of the day, eliminating then ASP World No. 1 Adriano de Souza (BRA), 26, via a series of hard-fought backhand barrel exchanges to advance to Round 3.
"That was a strange heat because it was pumping all morning and you think it's going to keep coming," Nicol said. "It turned out to be pretty slow and pretty bumpy and you had to wrestle with the barrels you got in. I was lucky to come out of that one 8. Adriano (de Souza) got that little nugget at the end, but I'm stoked to come away with that one in the end."
Nicol, who disrupts de Souza's ASP World Title campaign via the Round 2 win, is also eligible to gain crucial points towards requalifying for the ASP WCT for 2014 after missing out on his ASP Top 34 reberth by just one heat at Pipeline last year.
"I'm super happy that I made that heat," Nicol said. "Anytime you beat the top guys it feels good. It's a shame for Adriano (de Souza). I know it's a big loss for him. No one wants to get a 25th, but I'm just excited. The waves look insane for the remainder of the event and I hope to keep surfing these perfect waves and have a good time."
Kolohe Andino (USA), 19, contributed to the day's upsets, eliminating 2012 Volcom Fiji Pro runner-up Gabriel Medina (BRA), 19, in a hard-fought battle between the two young prodigies.
"Going in to that heat I thought I'd have to get some deep barrels with Medina being goofy-foot," Andino said. "I figured I'd had to have heat of my life out there to get through that heat, but after my fifth wave, I realized I wasn't going to get the barrels I was looking for. I decided to just do turns on my backhand and try and get scores. Luckily it worked."
VOLCOM FIJI PRO REMAINING ROUND 1 RESULTS: Heat 11: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 17.80, Nat Young (USA) 12.93, Kolohe Andino (USA) 9.10 Heat 12: Brett Simpson (USA) 13.20, John John Florence (HAW) 12.40, Adrian Buchan (AUS) 11.00
VOLCOM FIJI PRO ROUND 2 RESULTS: Heat 1: Kelly Slater (USA) 16.27 def. Aca Lalabalavu (FJI) 10.90 Heat 2: Mick Fanning (AUS) 14.67 def. Alex Grey (USA) 6.27 Heat 3: Yadin Nicol (AUS) 12.77 def. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 12.60 Heat 4: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 18.47 def. Dusty Payne (HAW) 15.53 Heat 5: Taj Burrow (AUS) 7.87 def. Adam Melling (AUS) 7.76 Heat 6: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 13.50 def. Glenn Hall (IRL) 8.43 Heat 7: Kolohe Andino (USA) 11.50 def. Gabriel Medina (BRA) 9.67 Heat 8: Julian Wilson (AUS) 13.93 def. Alejo Muniz (BRA) 9.04 Heat 9: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 15.57 def. Michel Bourez (PYF) 10.33 Heat 10: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 17.10 def. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 17.06 Heat 11: John John Florence (HAW) 19.80 def. Bede Durbidge (AUS) 12.83 Heat 12: Nat Young (USA) 18.23 def. Filipe Toledo (BRA) 7.60
VOLCOM FIJI PRO ROUND 3 RESULTS: Heat 1: Taj Burrow (AUS) 18.10 def. Fred Patacchia (HAW) 12.33 Heat 2: John John Florence (HAW) 16.10 def. Damien Hobgood (USA) 16.06 Heat 3: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 18.30 def. Kieren Perrow (AUS) 14.70