Scoring waves in France isn’t easy. Tide, wind and swell are constantly changing and the surf can be completely different from one beach to the next. On Saturday, chargers at the contest site were towing and paddling into raw, double overhead bombs while a mile away prog surfers like Chippa Wilson were flying above head-high wedges. By Sunday morning, though, it had cleaned up and dropped to a more manageable size and Round 3 was on.
Mick Fanning started it by having a shocker against Taylor Knox and seeing his world title hopes for this year sink. Fanning, whose career record at this event is second only to Andy Irons’, was sanguine about his situation, saying that he’s become interested in experimenting with boards.
After Kelly dusted off Moroccan trialist Ramzi Boukhiam, all eyes were on the next heat featuring Dane Reynolds and Jordy Smith. Both are coming off painful rib injuries and neither looked very comfortable at the start of the heat, but Jordy took the early lead. Dane battled back with a big blow-tail reverse and had a clear shot at the win, needing only a 5.66. He found a lined up right near the end of the heat, rifled off two vertical snaps and eyeballed the frothy end section. Anybody else on tour would have safely floated over it or hit it conservatively enough to finish the wave and ensure victory, but Dane’s Dane. He tried to force an air instead and went down. Was that his last appearance in a World Tour event as a Top 34 surfer?
In contrast to Dane was the win-at-all-costs approach of Brazilian rookie Gabriel Medina. The 17-year-old is an absolute wizard in small lefts. Needing a 6.13 in the dying minutes of his heat against Bede Durbidge, he threw down a frontside nose-pick and then somehow recovered out of it to hit the lip while basically hanging five with his front foot on the tip of his board. He got the score and moves onto Round 4.
Controversy erupted near the end of the day when Travis Logie went off in the small tricky lefts. Taj Burrow came into the beach upset because he knew there was no way that his last wave of the heat, a speed float followed by an under the lip snap, was worthy of the 7.35 he needed to win. The judges thought differently though and now, as in the heat between Adriano de Souza and Owen Wright in Brazil, have some explaining to do. [You be the judge: Here’s the heat review of Taj v. Trav.]
With the return of the sun and more rippable waves, the freesurf action heated up as well. John John Florence found a barreling right down the beach that Kelly Slater also surfed by himself near dark while Dane, Craig Anderson, Dion Agius, Balaram Stack and Brendon Gibbens got loose a fun bar a couple miles north.
With more sun, head-high waves and light winds forecast all this week, look for much more characteristic French fun-ness on the way. –Jamie Tierney