DAY OF UPSETS AS TOP FIVE SEEDS TUMBLE IN ROUND FOUR
With incredible 1.5 metre waves again pumping through the contest arena at St Leu, Reunion Island for the Rip Curl Search WCT event, the top five seeds on the Fosters Men's World Tour have promptly been shown the exit door by lesser known rivals.
Australians Taj Burrow (5th seed), Trent Munro (4th seed) and Joel Parkinson (3rd seed) plus 2nd seed and reigning world champ, Hawaiian Andy Irons and number one seed and former six-time world champ, American Kelly Slater, were all soundly beaten and will take no further part in the event.
Defeating those surfers respectively were 12th seeded Australian Danny Wills, 21st seeded Australian Jake Paterson, 14th seeded Australian Phil Macdonald, 19th seeded Brazilian Peterson Rosa and 17th seeded Australian Darren O'Rafferty.
After totally dominating his heat from the opening ride where he scored a 9.33 O'Rafferty was beaming when he returned to shore.
"I can't believe it. It's the first time I've ever beaten him!" said an elated O'Rafferty. "He's smashed me every time and now I've got one up on him. It's the best feeling in the world!"
On his opening ride he said: "It hit the inside bowl perfectly which gave me a chance to do three turns under the lip. It was such a dream wave and I got a 9.33 so you don't get much better than that. But more so, it doesn't take much for Kelly to turn a five point wave into an 8.0 or a 9.0, so I was lucky."
Slater who took an almost scientific approach in mounting a comeback after O'Rafferty came out all guns blazing, was obviously disappointed, as prior to this event his world title comeback had been well on track.
"Darren's opening wave was definitely the best wave that came through during the heat and he surfed it right," said Slater. "It put me on the chopping block and at that point you normally want to match him but in reality the chance of getting another 9.0 was possible but not probable. Realistically, if I could've had two good scoring rides [rather than one excellent ride] I could've been in that heat. I got the one 8.0 but I couldn't get a second. It was just math. You're not surfing against a guy, you're surfing against a number."
Equally as chuffed as O'Rafferty was Brazil's Peterson Rosa who also completely trounced the reigning world champ Irons from his opening ride. Irons had no answer, and despite executing some very explosive top turns on his rides, he struggled to get the longer ones that would enable him to win.
"I am feeling very happy," said Rosa. "Everybody on the tour is a good surfer but in 30 minutes if you can find the good waves you can win. I watched so many good waves today and I was looking to pick the one with the right line. I caught one and just did the good turns."
In an interesting turn for the books Joel Parkinson, with 11 minutes to go, "threw in the towel" and began to surf the remainder of his heat with Phil Macdonald with his right foot forward (goofy foot) which is his un-prefered stance. Phil Macdonald meanwhile continued his aggressive attack right to the end and left Parkinson needing two excellent rides to catch up.
"I'm pretty happy and feeling pretty confident on my backhand," said Macdonald. "I had a heat then where I couldn't put a foot wrong and had a lot of fun out there. It was my aim for this event and the next to get to the quarters as I've had a slow start to the season so far."
On Parkinson's switch stance: "There was a long time to go in that heat and I knew he needed some good scores. But with him being number two in the world last year I'm sure he could've got some big scores to come back. I was surprised."
Earlier in the day Danny Wills was relaxed as he disposed of Taj Burrow 17.1 points to 12.6. He too left Burrow in the unfamiliar position of needing two excellent rides to catch up.
"I was lucky in that heat," said Wills. "Taj took the first wave of the heat and I wasn't sure if there would be a second in the set, but the one I grabbed had a really nice wall and I just tried to ride the wave for what it was. It was the perfect way to start a heat. I struggled a bit yesterday so it was good to come back today."
Jake Paterson attributed his success over Trent Munro to the conditions being like his home break in Western Australia.
"That heat was a dream scenario. The conditions were exactly like what's at home. It's like the trade winds we get and with the slight bumps on the waves… I surf in these conditions every day in summer. All my heats have been held with an onshore breeze blowing and I feel more at home there."
The elimination of the top seeds today doesn't radically affect the current ratings nor the race for the Foster's Men's WCT title. With solid results in future events any one of the top five eliminated today still have the chance to win.
The largest move could come from Mick Fanning who, if he wins the event, could jump from 5th to 3rd.
UPCOMING QUATERFINAL HEATSQuarterfinal # 1
Daniel Wills v. Jake Paterson
Quarterfinal # 2
Mick Fanning v. Darren O’Rafferty
Quarterfinal # 3
Peterson Rosa v. Cory Lopez
Quarterfinal # 4
Phil MacDonald v. Nathan HedgeROUND 4 RESULTSHeat # 1
Daniel Wills def Taj Burrow
Heat # 2
Jake Paterson def Trent Munro
Heat # 3
Mick Fanning def Marcelo Nunes
Heat # 4
Darren O’Rafferty def Kelly Slater
Heat # 5
Peterson Rosa def Andy Irons
Heat # 6
Cory Lopez def Luke Egan
Heat # 7
Phillip MacDonald def Joel Parkinson
Heat # 8
Nathan Hedge def Travis Logie