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Wavescape - Surfing in South Africa

Tue, 13 March 2018

Cape Town’s Michael February has emerged triumphant after he brushed aside the enormity of a sudden death face off in his first heat on the WSL elite tour.

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GRAND ENTRANCE: They have already dubbed him "Freestyle February". Photo WSL / Sloane

By the end of Heat 3 in Round 2 of the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast at Snapper Rocks, local hero Matt Wilkinson was out and "Freestyle February" was in. Mikey will surf in Round 3 of the first stop on the 2018 World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), where he faces the guy who he might have replaced due to a shoulder injury, Julian Wilson.

February was a last-minute inclusion when Kelly Slater (USA) withdrew on Monday. The 11-time World Champion cited his need to allow more for the foot he injured at Jeffreys Bay last July to recover fully.

'It's been a weird last couple of days'"It's been a weird last couple of days because I didn't know what to expect from Kelly," February said. "He messaged me yesterday and explained the situation, which I really appreciated, because I like to understand everything. It would have been nice to be in Round 1, but I can't complain and to win my first heat feels incredible.”

The 24-year-old, who honed his skills in the frigid Atlantic Ocean waves around Kommetjie in Cape Town, grabbed his opportunity against Wilkinson in the clean but inconsistent three foot waves peeling down the storied Snapper Rocks point. Starting out slowly while Wilkinson caught plenty of waves, February used the priority system to select the bigger and longer set waves that enabled him to perform multiple manoeuvres.

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WILKO WILTS: The first of many big guns to be taken down by Mikey February? Photo WSL / Sloane

With his confidence growing as the heat progressed, the rookie posted a 6.0 to take the lead with five minutes remaining and Wilkinson could not find the 6.03 he needed for the heat win and two-time finalist was eliminated in equal 25th place overall.

“Freestyle’ February, as the commentators have dubbed the lanky South African’s hyperflexed approach to riding waves, will face a rejuvenated Wilson who looks healed from his MTB shoulder injury. The World #3 won his Round 1 encounter to advance directly to Round 3.

A big upset kicked off the first men’s elimination round of the year with World #1 John John Florence (HAW) eliminated by event wildcard Mikey Wright (AUS). The young competitor has made it clear that he will work hard to reach the elite CT and join his siblings, Tyler and Owen Wright, by continuing to prove himself in the Qualifying Series tour, the pathway where surfers earn their way to the top competition ranks.

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THE OTHER UPSET: Could John John's loss signal a shift in power for 2018? Photo WSL / Sloane

“I’m so thankful to get this wildcard from Quiksilver and to have the opportunity to come up against the world’s best,” Wright said. “Obviously, coming up against the World Champion is going to be tough but anyone on the CT is going to be really tough, so I just wanted to go out and surf my own heat and just work on getting the best waves. The waves are really fun so I can’t wait to get back out there.”

Florence’s shocking loss is the first time since 1991 that the reigning men’s World Champion has been knocked out of Round 2 in the opening event of the season (Tom Curren won the Title in 1990 and was a no-show in the first half of the 1991 season). Florence will leave with his first 25th place finish in 25 events.

“Mikey [Wright] is such a great surfer and he really surfed well in that heat,” Florence said. “His wave choice was so good. Every time I would pull off a wave, he’d be right behind me on a bigger, better wall. I’m feeling really good this year. I just need to get back into that competitive mindset and focus on my wave choice and hopefully not get another last-place finish at Bells Beach.”

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MEDINA TOUCH: Gabriel Medina imposed his small wave style and came out tops. Photo WSL / Sloane

Gabriel Medina (BRA), 2014 WSL Champion and 2014 event winner, did not let himself fall into the upset conversation with his win over Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) in Round 2. The Brazilian unleashed his signature backhand surfing to secure his win with a 13.00.

Jordy Smith (ZAF) will be up against rookie Michael Rodrigues (BRA) in Round 32012 WSL World Champion Joel Parkinson (AUS) found redemption, posting the highest two-wave total of the event, an excellent 17.03. Parkinson’s local knowledge was evident as he emerged from the biggest barrel of the day to dispatch California’s Pat Gudauskas (USA) on his return to the CT. Parko, a two-time Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast event winner, also squashed any question of looming retirement.

Jordy Smith (ZAF) will be up against rookie Michael Rodrigues (BRA) in Round 3 after the World #4 skipped Round 2 after he won his opening clash of the year on Sunday. Event organizers will reconvene at 6:30 a.m. local time (10.30pm Tuesday, South African time) to make the next call.

Surfline, WSL forecast partner, is calling for: Mid period, mid-size E swell from former Cyclone Hola will fill in today. There is good confidence we will see NE to E swell Wed-Thu, easing slowly into and over the weekend as the swell direction shifts more ESE/SE. Long range guidance points to more mid-size ESE/SE swell around the last couple to few days of the event window.

For more information, check out www.WorldSurfLeague.com.

Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast Round 2 Results
Heat 1: Mikey Wright (AUS) 15.10 def. John John Florence (HAW) 10.76
Heat 2: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 13.00 def. Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 7.90
Heat 3: Michael February (ZAF) 11.03 def. Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 8.97
Heat 4: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 11.40 def. Ian Gouveia (BRA) 10.07
Heat 5: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 17.03 def. Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 9.67
Heat 6: Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 14.67 def. Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 10.80
Heat 7: Frederico Morais (PRT) 12.16 def. Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 9.90
Heat 8: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 10.60 def. Keanu Asing (HAW) 8.86
Heat 9: Willian Cardoso (BRA) 12.90 def. Caio Ibelli (BRA) 10.83
Heat 10: Conner Coffin (USA) 12.20 def. Yago Dora (BRA) 10.60
Heat 11: Tomas Hermes (BRA) 14.93 def. Joan Duru (FRA) 12.17
Heat 12: Wade Carmichael (AUS) 11.74 def. Jesse Mendes (BRA) 11.13

Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast Round 3 Matchups
Heat 1: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Willian Cardoso (BRA)
Heat 2: Mick Fanning (AUS) vs. Conner Coffin (USA)
Heat 3: Kolohe Andino (USA) vs. Tomas Hermes (BRA)
Heat 4: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs. Italo Ferreira (BRA)
Heat 5: Jeremy Flores (FRA) vs. Adrian Buchan (AUS)
Heat 6: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. Mikey Wright (AUS)
Heat 7: Julian Wilson (AUS) vs. Michael February (ZAF)
Heat 8: Frederico Morais (PRT) vs. Kanoa Igarashi (JPN)
Heat 9: Joel Parkinson (AUS) vs. Griffin Colapinto (USA)
Heat 10: Adriano de Souza (BRA) vs. Wade Carmichael (AUS)
Heat 11: Connor O’Leary (AUS) vs. Michel Bourez (PYF)
Heat 12: Jordy Smith (ZAF) vs. Michael Rodrigues (BRA)

Roxy Pro Gold Coast Semifinal Matchups
Heat 1: Lakey Peterson (USA) vs. Malia Manuel (HAW)
Heat 2: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) vs. Keely Andrew (AUS)

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