SEIGNOSSE / HOSSEGOR / CAPBRETON, Landes, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France (Saturday, October 5, 2019) – Ian Crane (USA) has won the Red Bull Airborne France, an aerial specialty event featuring 18 of the most innovative surfers in the air, both on and off the Championship Tour (CT). Capacity crowds estimated at 25,000 people flocked the beach in Hossegor to watch the best aerialists in the world take on scary shorebreak ramps all afternoon.
The Final featured Ian Crane (USA), Nomme Mignot (FRA), Griffin Colapinto (USA), Maxime Huscenot (FRA), Finn McGill (HAW) and Reef Heazlewood (AUS) in a 45-minute showdown where only the highest score of each surfer counted.
California’s Crane posted the Final’s biggest score in the opening 5 minutes with a stratospheric straight air on his forehand, beautifully grabbed and landed absolutely perfectly to take a firm grip on the heat. Mignot, Colapinto and Huscenot all posted scores with landed maneuvers but no one really challenged Crane for the lead. McGill maybe had the closest calls with really progressive moves but he couldn’t stay on his feet and unfortunately was left scoreless.
Heazlewood replicated Crane’s air but on a smaller section and couldn’t take flight quite high enough, but the air was enough to push him up to 3rd as the clock approached the last 5 minutes. As time ran out the situation remained unchanged and Ian Crane walked away with the win. The American becomes the first non-CT surfer to claim a Red Bull Airborne victory.
But the lineup really started to deliver for the second heat, in which local wildcard Marc Lacomare (FRA) posted a near-perfect 9.10 for a long and deep barrel on a solid left as he advanced into Round 3 alongside compatriot Michel Bourez (FRA), eliminating Sebastian Zietz (HAW) in the process.
“So much emotions today I’m super happy,” said Lacomare. “Conditions were really tricky and even though local knowledge may have helped, you really had to be lucky to be in the right spot out there. Getting a wildcard to compete against the best in the world at home is an incredible gift. I did well last time so hopefully I can repeat that and I hope the waves keep getting better and better.”
Soli Bailey (AUS) showcased his incredible barrel riding skills in the following heat as he slid right under the lip at take-off and navigated two long sections in the tube to post an excellent 8.17 for the win. The Australian rookie on the Championship Tour hasn’t made it out of Round 3 all season but the conditions in France could offer a turning point for the former winner of the Volcom Pipe Pro.
“This morning I was free surfing out there and it was super hard to find the right waves,” said Bailey. “I was jumping up and down this morning at the chance to surf La Graviere. Growing up as a kid watching this event, this is a dream, these are the sort of waves that I love surfing. It was a pleasure to surf out there, definitely tricky but I was stoked to find that one.”
Conner Coffin (USA) pulled a miracle make on a late-entry backhand barrel to post his own 9.10 in the final men’s Elimination Round heat. The Californian lost control of his fins at takeoff, sliding dangerously down the face of the wave but somehow managed to get a line, build speed inside the tube and exit with the spit down the line.
“I’ve had a few great heats this season that I ended up losing and it’s nice to have that one go my way,” said Coffin. “I broke my magic board just paddling out for my heat and I thought wow here comes another shocker, but luckily I got that 9. There are so many waves out there but it’s tough to be in position.”
The first major upset of the event happened in the opening women’s Elimination Round heat when 7X World Champion Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) was eliminated by Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) and Paige Hareb (NZL). The Australian had not lost before the Quarterfinals all season and this result in the Roxy Pro France could unfortunately count her out of the World Title race for 2019.
“That was my first heat in solid La Graviere and it was a little nerve-wracking sort of new territory,” said Gilmore. “It’s nice to see the girls being pushed in these new areas, we have to perform in all sorts of conditions, unfortunately I couldn’t do that today. It was a tough heat, I got smashed a few times, broke my board and cut my hand. It’s definitely a bad result for me and you can’t win world titles with those.”
Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) took out the second Elimination Round and advanced alongside Silvana Lima (BRA), dispatching Bronte Macaulay (AUS) in equal 17th place in an event she reached the Semifinals last season.