Decisive Day Unfolds at Corona Open China hosted by Wanning

Former Championship Tour (CT) competitor Joan Duru started Round 2 off with a bang at the Corona Open China hosted by Wanning. – Credit: © WSL / Tim Hain

RIYUE BAY, Wanning/China (Wednesday, January 8, 2020) – The men’s Qualifying Series (QS) contingent took over Riyue Bay once more at the World Surf League (WSL) Corona Open China, a men’s and women’s QS 5,000, and continued their assault on the left point lineup. A slight decrease in swell still pulsed with two-to-three foot (1 – 1.5 metre), occasional plus, surf making its way for competitors to take advantage of and those who showed their patience excelled. Round 2 was finished in its entirety as the women’s competition was called off for the day.

A few of the former Championship Tour (CT) elite are present and accounted for and Joan Duru (FRA) made that presence known in today’s proceedings. The Frenchman overpowered the left point with his decimating forehand attack to accrue the day’s best heat total, an impressive 14.50 (out of a possible 20), on the way to his Round 2 Heat 1 win. Now Duru has his eyes set on the horizon moving forward after surviving a decisive day of competition. (Interview in video)

The Japanese contingent also continued to impress with Shun Murakami accruing the day’s best of a 14.93 heat total along with Shuji Nishi and Hiroto Ohhara both delivering the goods. Josh Moniz (HAW) matched Ohhara’s  top single-wave score of the day with an excellent 8.17 as the event moved into tough afternoon conditions.

Positive Vibe Warrior Turns it Up A Notch

Duru’s fellow former CT competitor found his next gear in the smaller conditions and relished his heat win. – Credit: WSL/ Hain

Patrick Gudauskas (USA) is known around the world as one of the “Positive Vibe Warriors” along with his brothers Dane and Tanner, and brought that mentality to China for this event. The 33-year-old was most recently on the elite CT in 2018 after competing among the world’s best for four years between 2010-2013 and now looks to rejoin the Tour by getting things started early in 2020. Gudauskas overtook the lead from an in-form Ohhara with his pre-studied knowledge of Riyue Bay as he looks to improve further.
“I’m really excited to be here on Hainan (Island) and the wave is really beautiful,” Gudauskas said. “I’ve been enjoying my surfs out there. It kind of reminds me of Churches near where I live if you go left there but it’s surprisingly powerful here with all the reef. That heat was pretty slow but I got my two waves, Hiroto got that eight and didn’t get a second one so today’s a good day to make it through.”

Keanu Asing (HAW) rounded out the former CT elite in attendance with another clutch heat win as he heads into Round 3 with plenty of momentum. 

Latin Americans Thrive in Round 2 Showdowns

: Mexican competitor Jhony Corzo came back from a close Round 1 heat and left no doubt in a big Round 2 performance. – Credit: WSL/ Hain

One of Mexico’s most esteemed surfers Jhony Corzo (MEX) delivered their first-ever Gold Medal in surfing nearly three years ago and brought that form into his Round 2 heat here with a 14.00 heat total. Hailing from Puerto Escondido, Mexico, Corzo is able to train at a nearby left point known as La Punta and showed that training paid off as he progresses forward.
“You just have to wait for the good waves, there’s always a set so I just tried waiting for that good one,” said Corzo. “Luckily I got one that let me pass through to the next round and I’m feeling super confident. Where I live is a left too so I trained a lot on that wave before coming. It’s great seeing more Mexicans on the QS like Alan Cleland at these events. There’s not many of us traveling around but hopefully we can break the ice and become the first-ever Mexican on the CT.”

Peru’s Lucca Mesinas felt right at home on the running lefts on offer in both his Round 1 on opening day (pictured) and Round 2 today. – Credit: © WSL / Tim Hain

2018 North America Regional QS Champion Lucca Mesinas (PER) has a big year ahead of after nearly finding his way into the Top 100 last season and also prepares for the 2020 Olympic Games Tokyo. This notes Mesinas’ second visit to Riyue Bay after competing in the QS and ISA events, and showed that experience with notching the two best scores in his Round 2 heat using smart wave selection.
“This wave is very similar to my hometown so it’s really nice to be surfing here,” said Mesinas. “It’s smaller than yesterday but there’s still a lot of power so you can still hit all the waves. I wanted to start really quick since it was slower and then wait for a good one and hopefully it would work so I’m happy it did. Last year I qualified for the Olympics and this year that’s my goal is to my best there and also have the focus on the QS as well to get a better ranking than last year.”

Event organizers will convene at 6:45 a.m. CST to determine a possible start to either men’s Round 3 or women’s Round 3 of competitione QS as well to get a better ranking than last year.”

Round 2 Called ON at Corona Open China Hosted by Wanning

RIYUE BAY, Wanning/China (Wendesday, January 8, 2020)  – The World Surf League (WSL) Corona Open China, a men’s and women’s Qualifying Series (QS) 5,000, has been called back ON with men’s Round 2 for a 7:00am CST start. A slight decrease in swell still pulses with two-to-three foot (1 – 1.5 metre), occasional plus, surf at Riyue Bay’s left point to offer competitors plenty to contest.

Women Make Big Return at Corona Open China

Yolanda Hopkins (PRT) put on a showcase in both her Round 1 and 2 heats at the Corona Open China hosted by Wanning. – Credit: © WSL / Tim Hain

The 2019 CT Rookie of the Year Brisa Hennessy (CRI) brought that flair to the left point and delivered one of the day’s top performances with a 12.63 heat total. For the 20-year-old constantly being on the go is nothing new and after making an appearance at Riyue Bay in 2015, earning an equal 17th at age 15, returned in fine form. Now that she finds herself among the world’s best, Hennessy hopes to stay there by all means necessary. (Interview in video)
Former CT elite stars Coco Ho (HAW), Pauline Ado (FRA) and Claire Bevilacqua (ITA) all found their way into Round 3 alongside Hennessy but it was a hefty upset for one of their fellow world’s best. 

Fierro and Farmer: Big Starts From Young Contenders

Former WSL Junior Champion Vahine Fierro (PYF) made an explosive debut alongside Minori Kawai (JPN) and eliminated former CT competitor Paige Hareb (NZL). Fierro accrued Round 2’s highest heat total of a 13.90 (out of a possible 20) with an impeccable 7.50 (out of a possible 10) to all but secure her victory. But, the 20-year-old Tahitian is coming in relaxed and ready to take on the week at hand.

21-year-old Australian Vittoria Farmer came out of the gates firing to make her statement. – Credit: WSL/ Nichols

For Vittoria Farmer’s (AUS) first visit to Riyue Bay a place atop the top performers was in store as she paved the way with a decimate backhand to garner a day’s best 15.27 heat total in Round 1. Farmer is no stranger to big results, winning three in a row at Nias, Simeulu, and Sumbawa in 2018 and now looks to claim her first-ever major QS victory to start 2020.

“It’s unreal to get a start like that and couldn’t have asked for anything else really,” said Farmer. “Always good to come out of the gates with a couple good scores and fun waves. I didn’t really hear too much about this wave, just photos, but wow it’s such a fun wave and it’s really fun to be surfing a left point.”
Yolanda Hopkins Stamps Authority on Opening Day

Hopkins’ backhand was lethal and stirred up the playing field of top QS threats. – Credit: © WSL / Tim Hain

Portugal’s Hopkins may not be a household name among the QS contingent but already has a number of results to her resume including a first-ever win last season at the Roxy Open. After today much more of the surfing world learned some of her potential after posting one of the day’s best performances in Round 1 with an excellent 8.17 (out of a possible 10), the day’s best, and 15.00 heat total before meeting one of surfing’s most revered names Ho and eliminating 2019 WSL Junior Championships runner-up Alyssa Spencer (USA) in Round 2. 
“I just surfed the way I usually surf and I got the scores for it,” said Hopkins. “It’s so fun out there and this wave is really good once you get on the good ones. (My coach) is back in Portugal and sets his alarm for every time I have a heat so he can watch it and then we talk via WhatsApp and I’m so grateful for him. Normally we’d review after my heat but here he’s able to watch them and we just talk right after.” 

One the QS’s top threats each year Philippa Anderson (AUS) made her 2020 debut in solid fashion, overcoming Ado, while Round 1 standout Leticia Canales Bilbao (ESP) found herself in an unfortunate interference with Carol Henrique (PRT) that ended in both of their elimination. For Anderson, each year is anew and the Australian takes the positives from the season prior to improve upon – never finishing lower than No. 14 on the rankings since 2015. The 27-year-old showcased her backhand attack and now looks for more heading deeper into the event. (Interview in video)

Men’s Contingent Blast Through Early Goings at Corona Open China hosted by Wanning

China’s own Qiu Zhuo performed brilliantly in his debut and set a momentous morning at the Corona Open China hosted by Wanning QS 5,000. – Credit: © WSL / Tim Hain

RIYUE BAY, Wanning/China (Monday, January 6, 2020) – Competition flurried into action on opening day of the World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) Corona Open China hosted by Wanning, a men’s and women’s QS 5,000-level event, with men’s Round 1 taking center stage. Two-to-four foot (1 – 2 metre) swell pulsed into Riyue Bay’s left-hand point throughout the day and provided a brilliant canvas for some of the top QS threats on hand. Women’s competition was called off for the day with a likely start when the event resumes.

Chinese Contender Breaks Through

Qiu Zhuo (CHN) notched a milestone feat for his country as the first Chinese competitor to advance in a major WSL QS event. The 16-year-old edged past Jackson Butler (USA), needing a 4.27 (out of a possible 10) and earning a 4.50, in the final minutes. Zhuo looks to capitalize on the opportunity at hand with 5,000 points in his home country and surfing alongside some of the world’s best.

“I feel so happy right now and I’m so excited this being the first time WSL has had a big (QS) contest here,” said Zhuo. “I just want to represent my country and it feels good to make it past the first heat. (I was) a little bit (nervous) but I talked to my coach and it feels way better when they tell me what to do – catch better waves and just do what you can do. (Surfing against these guys) gives me more experience. I want to be on the CT when I’m older and it’s something I’ll try my best at.”

Cole Houshmand and Josh Moniz Light Up Riyue Bay

Some surfers stood apart from their follow contenders and San Clemente, California’s, Houshmand did just that with a dominant forehand attack. The 19-year-old’s variety of major maneuvers garnered an excellent 8.33 (out of a possible 10) and finished with the day’s highest heat total of a 15.16 (out of a possible 20). 2019 was a breakout year for Houshmand and the young QS competitor now looks to go bigger in 2020. (Interview in video above)

“That was probably the best scenario for the first heat of the year and stoked to carry the momentum forward,” said Houshmand. “I really had no idea what to expect other than a few friends telling me it’s tropical, so I came in open-minded and I’m just excited to surf a little left-hand point. Last year my goal was to finish in the Top 100 and I finished at 75 so now that I’m in the Challenger Series I just want to give it my all and get a good result here.”

Moniz came out swinging and blasted the day’s highest single-wave score in his Riyue Bay debut. – Credit: WSL/ Hain

Swell continued to deliver stunning moments with Moniz finding the day’s best single-wave score of an 8.50 to put himself all but out of reach from his opponents. The Hawaiian’s backhand looked in great rhythm during Round 1 Heat 20’s afternoon hours as day one of competition neared its end. A fresh year ahead, Moniz hopes to join his younger brother Seth among the world’s best and showed he’s up to the challenge right out of the gates – hoping to join his sister Kelia as a Riyue Bay victor [a two-time WSL Longboard Champion at this location]. 
“We have so many waves like this at home so it’s pretty easy to surf knowing my boards all work,” said Moniz. “The pace of the wave is really nice and once you connect with the first turn you just keep going up and down. It’s so different from what we travel to but this wave is way better than a lot of the stops we have and I’m stoked I can. I’m happy to have an event right away after doing the Pipe trials then just enjoying some holidays with family.”
Former CT Elite Shine in Early Goings
Keanu Asing separated himself from his fellow former CT competitors including Joan Duru (FRA) and Patrick Gudauskas (USA), all advancing, with an excellent performance. The Kewalos, Hawaii, native showcased his world-renowned backhand that helped put him among the world’s best for three-career years and now looks to get back there once more. 

“It’s pretty cool to get an early start to the year and I think last year was a tough year for me just learning about myself,” said Asing. “I’m coming to the back end of my twenties and now just trying to better my craft and nothing better than to get started in January. I’ve never been here before and it’s a bit of a journey but it’s a cool place and just embracing the different challenges that come with it.” 

Ohhara Leads Strong Japanese Front

Hiroto Oharra looks to regain his form heading into 2020 and started brilliantly in China. – Credit: WSL/ Nichols

One of Japan’s top competitors Hiroto Ohhara came out firing on all cylinders and led the way among his fellow compatriots traveling from just off mainland Asia. Ohhara’s solid 2019 season unraveled in the final events of the year but the work he put in early helped keep him among the Top 50 heading into the early season start here at Riyue Bay. The 23-year-old unleashed a defiant backhand strike throughout his 2020 debut to notch an impressive 15.00 heat total. 
“This is my first time here in China and it’s totally different than Japan but it’s still Asia so I feel comfortable here,” said Ohhara. “When I saw the schedule come out I thought ‘Gosh, it’s super early’ (laughs) but because last year I didn’t do well at the end of the year I wanted to start early and start working for a lot of points. I saw the footage from five or six years ago and it looked really fun so I thought it’d be good trip with some of the boys.” 
Ohhara is joined by a plethora of Japanese contenders including Joh Azuchi, Kato Arashi, Shuji Nishi, Yuri Ogasawara, Keanu Kamiyama, Keijiro Nishi and Rinta Ooto each winning their respective heats, among more joining them.

Early Exits Ensue

Australia’s Nicholas Squiers began the shift of upsets in taking out renowned waterman Kai Lenny. – Credit: WSL/ Hain

Despite some brilliant performances from some of the top QS threats, one of the world’s most well-rounded waterman Kai Lenny (HAW) witnessed firsthand the QS grind with one of its warriors Nicholas Squiers (AUS) dismantling the heat. Lenny joined a handful of top-seeded competitors to face early elimination as one of Europe’s top upcoming competitors Justin Becret (FRA) fell in his debut as well alongside 2019 WSL Junior Championship runner-up Kade Matson (USA), standout competitor Kauli Vaast (FRA) and more. 
Event organizers will convene at 6:45 a.m. CST to determine a possible start to either men’s Round 2 or women’s Round 1 of competition.
The Corona China Open QS 5,000 hosted by Wanning will run at Riyue Bay, Wanning, Hainan Island, China in the best conditions between January 6 – 12. Tune in live throughout the event window via, Facebook Live or the WSL App.




Stage Set For Corona Open China Hosted by Wanning Opening Day

After a four-year absence the Qualifying Series (QS) is back at the beautiful lefthander of Riyue Bay for the Corona Open China QS 5,000. – Credit: © WSL / Will Hayden-Smith

RIYUE BAY, Wanning/China (Sunday, January 5, 2020) – The new year is set to begin with the World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) men and women’s Corona Open China hosted by Wanning, a men and women’s QS 5,000-level event, beginning January 6 – 12 at the dreamy lefthander of Hainan Island, China’s, Riyue Bay. A star-studded lineup is in attendance including 2019’s Championship Tour (CT) elite Joan Duru (FRA), Brisa Hennessy (CRI), Coco Ho (HAW) and Paige Hareb (NZL) alongside a plethora of QS threats looking to start their year off with 5,000 points to their name.

Riyue Bay, part of the province of Wanning, offers surfers incredibly consistent long left-hand waves and breaks daily during the winter thanks to the relentless North East tradewinds. Located on the Island of Hainan in the South China Sea, Riyue Bay is a tropical paradise with palm tree lined beaches surrounded by beautiful mountainous forests and some of China’s most impressive holiday resorts. 

The last time WSL had its presence on Chinese shores for the QS goes back to 2015 where Mahina Maeda (JPN) took down the event and became a qualification threat where she stayed until the final event – falling just short of the CT. The now 21-year-old returns to Wanning in hopes of replicating that performance after finding her form the previous two seasons, finishing No. 14 in 2019 after holding a qualification spot within the Top 6 for a short time, and make her long-awaited breakthrough into the world’s elite.

“I think Riyue Bay is a very special place and it’s very tropical like my home in Hawaii,” said Maeda. “The year we had the QS 6,000 there the waves were pumping after we got very lucky with a typhoon swell and not many people know how good the waves can get. A chance to win 5,000 points is awesome. Last year and the previous years I wasn’t able to accumulate the right amount of points to qualify and came up just a hair short. A win here or even a Final would definitely boost my confidence for the upcoming 10,000’s and would look good for my 2020 campaign.”

The 2019 CT Rookie of the Year is set to put her world-class backhand to work to start 2020. – Credit: WSL/ Cestari

Hennessy made her CT rookie season one to remember with multiple finals day appearances, earning a Semifinal finish in Bali, and brought that confidence to the QS where she was able to re-qualify for the 2020 Tour. The 20-year-old now looks to kickstart her year with a return to Riyue Bay after garnering an equal 17th where she competed alongside some of the world’s best at just age 15. 

“Riyue Bay was actually my second-ever QS so it’s pretty surreal and special to be going back,” said Hennessy. “From what I remember the island is beautiful and the lefthander is super fun. For me and my family it’s honestly pretty natural to be on the constant go so why not start the contest year at literally the start of the year (lauhgs)! For me I think the most practice in a jersey the better.

2019 was definitely a year where I learned and was inspired more than any other year. I think the biggest thing I want to achieve this year is challenge myself and strengthen my weaknesses. If I can even take some of those experiences to help me in this new year I will be happy.”

Duru makes his return to Hainan Island after seven years away in hopes of earning valuable points to re-qualify for the CT. – Credit: WSL/ Cestari

Frenchman Duru spent the last three years among the world’s best vying to keep his place there and now must return to the QS for a chance to get back to the Top 34. The goofy-footer will feel right at home on the lefthander, hoping to utilize his world-class forehand attack, after competing at the venue in 2012 and finishing with a Quarterfinal result. 

“It’s really good to have a QS 5,000 at the start of the year,” said Duru. “I like no break and going straight back to contest mode. I went to (Riyue Bay) for the ISA and QS a long time ago. We had a good swell and the left was pumping so I hope to have it like this again. I don’t know yet (where my mindset is heading into 2020) and going to enjoy the contest and see where I’m going.”

China’s own Qui Zhou will be one of the representatives for his country on the men’s side of competition and is joined by fellow compatriots, event trials stand outs, such as Huang Yige, Li Yiguang and Wang Zefu among the eight surfers. Chinese women looking to mix it up with some of the world’s best include Huang Yingying, 20, who made an impressive showing at her local break. 

“It’s really exciting and this is a big opportunity to learn from some of these professionals,” said Yingying. “Being from here and seeing them surf this wave is really amazing. I remember when the WSL first came here and now to be in this event is so exciting.”

Event organizers will convene at 6:30 a.m. CST to determine a possible start to either men or women’s Round 1 competition.

The Corona China Open QS 5,000 hosted by Wanning will run at Riyue Bay, Hainan Island, Wanning, China in the best conditions between January 6 – 12. Tune in live throughout the event window via,

No Competition yesterday at Billabong Pipe Masters

World No. 1 Italo Ferreira (BRA) needs to get through the final four heats at the Billabong Pipe Masters in order to clinch his maiden World Title. – – redit: © WSL / Sloane

BANZAI PIPELINE, Oahu/Hawaii – The Billabong Pipe Masters in Memory of Andy Irons, the final stop on the 2019 World Surf League (WSL) Men’s Championship Tour (CT) and third gem of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, will be OFF for the day due to uncontestable conditions on offer. The next call will be today, Friday, December 13, at 7:00 a.m. HST (7:00pm SA Time) for a possible 8:00 a.m. start at the world-renowned Banzai Pipeline. 

“We still have a pretty massive swell out there, so we are going to call the competition off for the day,” said Renato Hickel, WSL Tours and Competition. “But, tomorrow, save the date. We are going to have a 7:00 a.m. HST call for a possible 8:00 a.m. start. Potentially end of the Pipe Masters and a lot on the line. Of course the World Title decision, we have CT and QS qualifications too on the line, we have Olympic qualifications for the last spot for America and Australia, and the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing title. You can’t miss it.”

The Men’s 2019 CT season could potentially finish tomorrow to determine the 2019 Men’s World Champion, the next Billabong Pipe Master, the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing title, CT qualifications, and the final Olympic qualifications. 

The three remaining World Title contenders will need to win their next heats in order to keep their World Title hopes alive. Current World No. 1 Italo Ferreira (BRA) will face rookie Peterson Crisanto (BRA) In Heat 1, while No. 2 Gabriel Medina (BRA) will have a rematch with Caio Ibelli (BRA). Kolohe Andino (USA) will battle 2016 Pipe Master Michel Bourez (FRA) in Heat 16. 

Men’s World Title scenarios for the 2019 Billabong Pipe Masters:
– If Italo Ferreira wins Pipe, he clinches the World Title;
– If Ferreira gets a 2nd, Gabriel Medina will need a 1st to take the World Title from Ferreira;
– If Ferreira gets a 3rd, Medina needs a 2nd;
– If Ferreira gets 5th, Medina needs a 3rd;
– If Ferreira gets 9th, Medina needs a 5th & Kolohe Andino a 1st

Jordy Smith and Filipe Toledo Knocked out of World Title Race at Billabong Pipe Masters

World No. 1 Italo Ferreira (BRA) opened Round 3 with a heat win and moves closer to securing his first World Title at Pipeline. Credit: © WSL / Heff

BANZAI PIPELINE, Oahu/Hawaii (Wednesday, December 11, 2019) – The Billabong Pipe Masters in Memory of Andy Irons, the final stop on the 2019 World Surf League (WSL) Men’s Championship Tour (CT) and third gem of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, witnessed a dramatic day of intense matchups in the Round of 32 as the world’s best surfers battled in eight-to-ten foot (2.4 – 3 meter) waves.

Today’s competition saw World No. 1 Italo Ferreira (BRA) and No. 2 Gabriel Medina (BRA) advance out of a suspenseful Round of 32 to tighten the World Title race. World No. 3 Jordy Smith (ZAF) and No. 4, Filipe Toledo (BRA), fell out of the running after heartbreaking defeats by Ricardo Christie (NZL) and 2018 Vans Triple Crown Champion Jesse Mendes (BRA), respectively.

Toledo and Smith Knocked out of World Title Race at Billabong Pipe Masters

With so much on the line in today’s competition, each heat was a mini-drama series as World Title hopeful Toledo became the first casualty at the hands of New Zealand’s Christie, 11.04 to 9.84. Christie and Toledo went into Heat 5 with opposite mindsets, Christie with a casual approach and Toledo with everything to lose.

“I made some priority mistakes in the heat,” said Toledo. “Paddled for some waves that I should have kept priority and waited for a better wave. I’m just tired. It’s tough. You’re trying not to prove to anyone what you can do but at the same time in the back of your mind, you’re actually trying to. So I just had to put pressure on myself.”

Filipe Toledo (BRA). Credit: © WSL / Sloane

After a win at the Oi Rio Pro and two runner-up finishes (Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach and Freshwater Pro) this season, Toledo was in title contention for the second consecutive year and came into the Billabong Pipe Masters in the No. 4 position. Meanwhile, Christie was simply out to get some of the best waves of his life since he was out of requalification contention for 2020.

“I wasn’t really thinking about that, to be honest (playing World Title spoiler),” said Christie. “I just wanted to get some good waves. I had Filipe yesterday and he got me then and I got cut so I just wanted to redeem myself and get a good wave. I got a pretty sick one I’m stoked on.”

After surfing well in his opening round heat and advancing straight into the Round of 32, World No. 3 Smith came up against the 2018 Vans Triple Crown champion Jesse Mendes (BRA). With deteriorating conditions during his heat, the lineup went from dreamy to blown out in a matter of minutes creating challenging conditions for the surfers. With ten minutes remaining, Mendes secured a score for the lead while Smith got caught inside as time winded down. Forced to return to the beach to retrieve his back-up board, the South African ran out of time to get the required result and was eliminated in Equal 17th place.

esse Mendes (BRA). Credit: © WSL / Cestari

“I just feel like I didn’t make a conscious decision to catch the actual wave,” said Smith. “I had a small glance at him and then I decided I was going to have a look at it and I didn’t really want it and I guess they deemed that it looked like I did. It just really hurts because at the bottom of my heart… I really didn’t want the wave and we could all see that the wave wasn’t anything special. Obviously, the wind came up, and on the very next wave he got a five and he went to the lead.”

Despite the loss, Smith has had an incredibly consistent season with only four losses before the Quarterfinals. This was also Smith’s fifth time falling short in the World Title race (2nd in 2010, 4th in 2013, 2nd in 2016, 4th in 2017, 3rd in 2019). The 31-year-old will now look ahead to 2020, where he will once again battle for a maiden World Title and also represent South Africa after his provisional qualification for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

“It’s a hard one to swallow at the end of a big year,” continued Smith. “Way to break your board and to just kind of end that way just doesn’t seem that good. I think the highlight is probably the consistency, every year I just try and kind of pick up that consistency. Those other guys surfed really well the whole year, they got a couple of victories and that really put them ahead. It’s a tough one to swallow. You wake up in the morning and you just kind of give it your all. The last three weeks have been pretty tough. But you just fight every day for what it is and come back stronger and that’s it. Just try and make yourself proud I guess.”

Jordy Smith (ZAF). Credit: © WSL / Cestari

Final Three World Title Contenders Left Standing: Ferreira, Medina, Andino

A new large NNW swell filled in through the night and contest organizers and competitors arrived to pristine albeit challenging conditions at the famed break. Ferreira paddled out for the first heat of the day against good friend Jadson Andre (BRA) and went on to win with an 8.53 two-wave total (out of a possible 10) to Andre’s 7.20. With a World Title on his shoulders, Ferreira handled the weight well and found mid-range scores alongside Andre.

“It was hard to sleep last night, I woke up at 1:30 a.m. and watched some movies,” said Ferreira. “It’s so hard out there, ya know. I tried to get the best waves. I got one good one but I fell in the end, the foam ball hit me. Every heat is history, let’s keep going. I hope in the next one I can do better than this.”

Italo Ferreira (BRA). Credit: © WSL / Sloane

Ferreira has been working with legendary Pipeline veteran Shane Dorian (HAW) to help work out the intricacies of Pipe and Backdoor, which showed in the Brazilian’s approach and wave selection today. 

“We still working on this comp, Shane is a good guy and gave me a lot of details on Backdoor and Pipe and still helps me a lot,” Ferreira continued. “He’s still one of the best guys in on the Big Wave Tour, so happy to work with him, he’s a legend.”

Pipe Invitational wildcard, Imaikalani deVault (HAW), made two-time World Champion Medina work for the heat win after he earned the best wave of the exchange, an excellent 9.57. DeVault threaded multiple sections on a clean Pipeline wave and had a confident exit, but was unable to find a good backup score to edge out the Brazilian. Medina’s 17.07 scoreline was one of the highest in the event and he locked in on multiple frontside barrels to defend both his World Title and Billabong Pipe Masters title.

“That was a fun heat, a really tense heat because he got a nice wave in the end,” said Medina. “I’m happy to surf these kinds of waves with another guy. It was really fun, I just want to thank God for another heat and I’m looking forward to the next opportunity.”

Gabriel Medina (BRA). Credit: © WSL / Sloane