After Ryan Callinan had added intrigue to the World Title race with his victory over Filipe Toledo, Gabriel Medina took no time in making his move. Medina’s victory over Wiggolly Dantas means the 2014 World Champion is now just two heat wins away from claiming the Jeep Leader Jersey for the first time in 2018.
“As I entered the water I heard that Ryan had turned the heat,” Medina said afterwards. “I took a few deep breaths and refocused. The waves were tricky as the wind was up and I knew I had to deal with what was in front of me.”
Medina’s heat total of 11.33 didn’t match the fireworks of Toledo and Callinan’s heat, but the win could have huge implications for the World Title race.
“It was an opportunity and I took it,” Medina said ominously. “I know how to win in France and I love surfing here. I’ll take it heat-by-heat, but I realize what is at stake. It’s a space I feel comfortable in.”
That heat was the last of 17 surfed in what was an epic day held in excellent, but ever-changing, French beachbreaks. In what is known in major golf terms as a “Moving Day,” the field was reduced from 30 down to 17. While considerable intrigue was added at the top of the ratings, it was the surfers fighting for their CT survival that also pushed the performance levels.
Zeke Lau’s Round 2 win though probably had the best claim for being the most dramatic. The Hawaiian rode the best tube of the day in the last 15 seconds of his heat with Tomas Hermes to score a 7.93. His chest beating claim showed just how much it meant.
“I fell with priority on the left and as I hopped back on the ski and I knew I couldn’t give up,” said Lau. “I had to give myself a chance and I had to keep moving. I was tired and I wanted to stop and just be done with it, but I had to fight to the end or I was out of the event.”
Matt Wilkinson too showed a return to the form. Having not won a heat since the Oi Rio Pro back in May, the goofyfooter won two today to progress through to Round 4. Currently languishing as the World No. 34, his Round 3 defeat of World Title contender Italo Ferreira was one of the day’s other big upsets.
“I got the upper hand in our first exchange and I felt I was in a good position and then I saw him teeing off and jumping into the sky and spinning around,” laughed Wilkinson. “He seemed to get a little frantic which helped me and even though he got back in the lead, I thought I could get it together and get it back.”
Wilkinson did with two of his trademark backhand snaps and looked to be channeling the form that has seem him win three CT events in the last two years.
“I really felt my mojo coming back today,” he said. “On my backhand when I’m really on point I feel I have a lot of time to decide what type of backhand snap I will do and it felt like that today. Lets hope I can build on that and push through to Final’s Day.”
Wilkinson will be joined by Adriano de Souza in Round 4. The 2015 World Champion also showed both a return to form and a deadly backhand. One lefthander that featured half-a-dozen flowing snaps scored an 8.70, a single-wave tally only bettered by Filipe Toledo.
“I found some rhythm and felt like I really opened up on that wave,” De Souza said. “I haven’t been happy with my results and am fired up to finish the year really strong. I’m hoping today’s performance is the start of something special.”