15 April, 2015 15 April, 2015

The Box Tests World’s Best at Margaret River Pro

After waiting for conditions to settle and the tide to fill in, Round 1 of the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro got underway at The Box; the notorious slab across the bay from the main peak at Margarets.

The Box was both brutal and beautiful for Round 1.

With vertical drops and steps distorting the face, The Box is a a tricky wave to surf. But who better to test the waters than John John Florence (HAW), who dropped in to the first wave of the event and casually glided through the square barrel to take an early lead with a score of 7.83pts. It’s a lead he’d keep throughout Heat 1, as Dusty Payne (HAW) and Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) battled to figure out the fearsome slab.

JJF backed up his early score with another well-ridden tube, which he punctuated with an air reverse on the end section. He wasn’t done, however, because his last ride was almost the best of the lot. Dropping in impossibly late and deep, John John disappeared behind the foamball of a solid, square barrel and was almost spat out the end. Instead he back-flipped in the tube as the foamball got the better of him. We all love to see commitment and of course wipeouts, so that was perhaps the highlight of the heat.

John John, as casual as you like during Heat 1.

Jordy Smith (ZAF) was up next in Heat 2 against Jadson Andre (BRA) and Brett Simpson (USA), and after feeling his way through his opening ride, Jordy found the best wave of the match-up and threaded the tube to score an even 5.00pts. It wasn’t a massive score, but at The Box it’s a keeper. Jadson and Brett could only find low-scoring rides for heat totals of 3.40 and 0.50 respectively.

Kelly Slater (USA) didn’t amass a huge heat total in Heat 3 either, but he definitely showed his skill and commitment on a couple of ridiculous barrels he didn’t make. “If I go watch the highlights I’m probably not going to watch my scoring waves, I’m going to watch the ones I fell on,” admitted the 11-times world champ to Peter Mel in the post-heat interview. “Those waves were insane!”

Still, Kelly’s 8.20 heat total was more than enough to see off the challenge from Kai Otton (AUS) and Ricardo Christie (NZL), who scored 3.33 and 3.27 respectively.

Kelly was pulling into everything during his heat.

Hawaii’s Sebastian Ziets found his way out of an impossibly deep tube in Heat 4 to score a 9.23 [watch here, it’s ridiculous] and secure his spot in Round 3 ahead of Adriano De Souza (BRA) and CJ Hobgood (USA). Heat 5 following that was a low-scoring tussle between reigning world champ, Gabriel Medina (BRA), Fred Pattachia (HAW) and Alejo Muniz (BRA), which went the way of the Hawaiian.

Mick Fanning (AUS) was up next and continued his winning ways after his victory at Bells with a strong showing in Heat 6. Mick opened with a committed 8.67-scoring ride to kick things off, before local wildcard, Jay Davies, answered back with a 7.50 that didn’t include a lot of tube time but did show some serious skills to negotiate the steps and warping lip. Mick backed up his opening ride with a mid-range 5.33, while Jay could only manage a 2.77 and was relegated to Round 2 along with Matt Wilkinson (AUS).

The wave of the day! Ace Buchan earned Round 1’s highest score with this beaut.

With the wind starting to switch to the south thus making The Box an even trickier prospect, WSL Commissioner Kieren Perrow announced the decision to put the event on hold after Heat 7, which was already in the water. Josh Kerr (AUS) was expected to take out the win, but it was Ace Buchan (AUS) who stole the show with Round 1’s highest-scoring ride – a crazy 9.57 [watch here].

After a short break the remaining heats in Round 1 were contested at Margaret River’s main peak, which was massive and tricky. Unfortunately the main peak doesn’t provide the kind of spectacle The Box does, and the last five heats were short of highlights. There were some big drops, a few of the world’s best took some huge sets on the head, and competitors were definitely surfing the waves on offer well, however, after the excitement of the earlier heats the rest of Round 1 flew by without much fanfare.

Main Peak was a different sort of challenge for the remaining heats. Miguel Pupo drew first blood in Heat 8.

By the final horn of the last heat, Miguel Pupo (BRA), Jeremy Flores (FRA), Joel Parkinson (AUS), Michel Bourez (TAH) and Julian Wilson (AUS) had all booked their spot in Round 3. The rest of the field will be facing Round 2 match-ups when competition resumes.

Go to worldsurfleague.com to catch all the heat reviews, results and highlights from the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro.

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