2018 Margaret River Pro | Wildcards steal the show
Event wildcards Mikey Wright (AUS) and Kael Walsh (AUS) upset the early elimination round with their wins over top seeds Adrian Buchan (AUS) and Matt Wilkinson (AUS) respectively.
The early wins by underdogs Wright and Walsh put them in a unique position to take down surfings biggest names as they advance to Round 3.
In a rematch of their Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast heat, Wright will fight to again knock out reigning, two-time WSL Champion John John Florence (HAW).
Walsh will be against current World No. 1 Julian Wilson (AUS) to make a run for a win in front of his home crowd.
Wright eliminated an in-form Buchan in the third heat of the day.
Wright perfectly matched the open-ocean power of Main Break with his trademark turns and sent a shot across to all competitors that, once again, he is one to watch out for.
“The waves are really fun out there this morning,” Wright said.
“Its been a great experience to have surfed two heats at two separate locations in such great waves. I had a couple of falls at the end of my waves in Round 1 so a big focus for me was to finish my waves and it seemed to pay off today.”
Hometown hero, Walsh, showed he deserved his spot in the event by defeating World Title challenger Wilkinson in Heat 2 of Round 1.
Walsh looked solid at Main Break, staying seemingly calm, while Wilkinson struggled to find a rhythm and was eliminated in Equal 25th place, his second early exit in 2018.
“I know Matt Wilkinson is a really good competitor and it was always going to be a tough heat,” Walsh said.
“I knew Id have a good shot at matching it with the best so I wasnt really intimidated. Im comfortable in the waves around home and have got Jake Paterson in my corner, who has more knowledge than anyone over here, so knew I was in good hands.”
Current Jeep Leader Italo Ferreira (BRA) was very lucky to overcome injury replacement Miguel Pupo (BRA) in their Round 2 matchup.
Pupo was on fire early, posting the highest single wave score of the day, an 8.33 (out of a possible 10) in the opening exchange for a series of critical backhand snaps. Ferreira was on the ropes — needing a 7.00 — until the dying minutes of the heat where he found a set and was able to post a 7.50 to narrowly avoid elimination.
“That was a really tough heat,” Ferreira said.
“Miguel (Pupo) was surfing so well, and I was struggling to find any good waves. I knew on the last one I was going to have to give it my all and that the wave would have to be surfed really well. When they said the score I was so happy because I want to keep going and I want to hold onto this yellow jersey.”
Michael February (ZAF) is officially a full-time CT competitor after taking three-time WSL Champion Mick Fannings (AUS) place, who retired after the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach.
February has had two early losses so far on the elite Tour, but his win today over Frederico Morais (PRT) gives him the opportunity to earn a breakthrough result.
“This is only the second heat I have won on the CT, so it feels really good,” February said.
“My goal going into that heat was to catch more waves as I have had a few slow heats this year, and I didnt want to lose another heat that way. Coming onto this tour takes a lot of adjusting and getting used to, but I just try and do my own thing.”
Two of the most highly touted members of the 2018 rookie class, Griffin Colapinto (USA) andYago Dora (BRA), went head-to-head in Heat 7 of Round 2 and the performances did not disappoint.
While Colapinto has already found his feet at the elite level, Dora has still been searching for a way out of Round 2 and his desperation showed at Main Break as he attacked the solid walls on his backhand to overcome Colapinto and escape a third-straight last-place finish.
“It feels really good to finally get a heat win here on the Tour,” Dora said.
“Griffin (Colapinto) is one of my favorite surfers on the CT, so I was really nervous to come up against him. I do like taking to the air, but this wave is more suited to power surfing, so I chose to stick to the face and do some big turns.
“Its good to get some confidence from that win, especially against Griffin. Ive taken a lot of inspiration from how he has surfed this year.”
Another rookie who fared well in Round 2 was Michael Rodrigues (BRA), who came into his own against Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) to post one of the highest heat totals of Round 2, a 14.34 (out of a possible 20). Rodrigues mixed power and style to dominate the heat and progress into Round 3, where he will match-up with World No. 1 Ferreira.
There were mixed results for the other CT freshman with Wade Carmichael (AUS) falling toJoan Duru (FRA), while Jesse Mendes (BRA) got the win over Tomas Hermes (BRA) in their all-rookie matchup.
The first heat of the day saw Owen Wright (AUS) take a comfortable win over Drag Aware WA Trials winner Dave Delroy-Carr (AUS), who bowed out in Equal 25th in his first CT appearance.
Delroy-Carr, 28, will continue to be involved in the Margaret River Pro as part of the Water Patrol Australia safety team.
With an onshore breeze strengthening towards the end of the round, the Commissioner's Office decided to put the next rounds on standby until Monday morning when clean conditions are expected to return.
– with World Surfing League