France: The world’s best surfers have arrived in the Southwest of France as they prepare for the start of the World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour’s (CT) European leg with the Quiksilver Pro and Roxy Pro France.
The legendary beachbreaks of the Landes region will play host to the 18th edition of the sole French CT stop, hosted at the iconic surf towns of Seignosse, Hossegor and Capbreton. The holding period for the event opens on Thursday, October 3 and runs through Sunday, October 13, 2019.
With just three events remaining in the 2019 WSL CT calendar, the World Title picture has begun to crystalize. The race is far from over, but the contenders have separated from the pack of the world’s best surfers and the pressure is on those with real title hopes to make the most of the few opportunities they have left. For the first time ever, Olympic dreams are on the line as the qualification for Tokyo 2020 plays out over the tour’s final chapters.
Two-time reigning WSL Champion Gabriel Medina (BRA) and 3X World Champion Carissa Moore (HAW) lead the men’s and women’s rankings heading into Europe with Filipe Toledo (BRA), Lakey Peterson (USA), Jordy Smith (ZAF) and Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) all in pursuit of the Jeep frontrunner position as well as their own respective inaugural world titles.
All Eyes on Medina
Coming in hot after a win at the Freshwater Pro pres. by Outerknown, Gabriel Medina (BRA) lands in France with a chance to break away from his opponents in the 2019 WSL Title race. The Brazilian star has an incredible track record in the Southwest beach breaks, with three wins and two other Final appearances over the years. His dynamic style of surfing, and big hollow barrels abilities are a perfect fit for the diversity of conditions found in France and another win here would be a giant leap in his bid for a third world crown.
“France has always been good to me and I hope it will be the same this year,” said Medina. “Each contest is a new one for me so I start from the beginning every time. Everyone is so hungry for the win so I’m just keeping my focus on me. The whole world stops to watch the Olympics and root for their country and hopefully this time I’ll be there and people will be rooting for me!”
But Medina’s job in France won’t be easy as his direct competition Toledo and Smith are also carrying momentum from a big result in Lemoore and will be out to prove their worth in an event where they haven’t been the most consistent standouts.
For local star Jeremy Flores (FRA) the Quiksilver Pro France also carries huge importance. The Frenchman sits 14th on the Jeep Leaderboard and looks to solidify a top spot on the rankings and a potential qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games under the French flag. Raised partly on the shores of Southwest France, Flores is a fan favorite here and would love to reach the final matchups for the first time on home soil.
“It’s always a pleasure to come home to France,” Flores said. “After all the time on the road, it’s nice to sit down and enjoy the little things here, the good food and the downtime with family. I hope conditions are good this week, we haven’t been very lucky in the past few years so hopefully, fans get to see the big waves and heavy barrels we all like to surf here. This traditionally hasn’t been my best performance of the year but like any other event I enter I’m here to win and maybe this time some things can go my way.”
Women’s Title Race Heats Up
The 2019 WSL women’s title race is as exciting as ever and the current frontrunners have all had great success in France in the past, making this stop particularly important once again. Three-time WSL Champion Moore has the upper hand but close behind her, Peterson, Fitzgibbons, and Gilmore are all chasing a big finish.
7X World Champion Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) has won twice in France but it has been a long seven years since her last victory. Consistent as ever this season with Quarterfinal finishes at worst in the first seven events of 2019, Gilmore has also been uncharacteristically absent of the Finals more often than not, with just one CT event win in Bali so far this year. The rippable beach breaks and hollow barrels of the region could be a turning point in the Australian’s bid for a record-breaking eight title.
“This event marks the beginning of the end for us,” said Gilmore. “Conditions in Europe are always the most challenging because you don’t know what you’re going to get so you have to be able to adapt. If I can qualify for the Olympic Games it would really ease my nerves. Being in the top two surfers from your country is a really tough battle so it’s going to be exciting to watch that go down. I’d love to make the team and represent Australia.”
Fresh off a runner-up finish in California, French surfer Johanne Defay (FRA) can dream big as well as she chases her own spot for the 2020 Olympics. The powerful regular foot surfer from Reunion Island sits within the provisional cut for Tokyo and has a chance to distance herself from her competition with a result in France.
“Right now I’m feeling pretty good about my chances,” said Defay. “I know there’s a lot of work to be done still and I’d like to have a good result here in France too. I set my goals for each event to try and reach the Quarters at least and every next heat is a bonus, but ultimately we’re always here to win events.”
Wildcards and Injury Updates
John John Florence (HAW), Mikey Wright (AUS) and Adriano de Souza (BRA) have withdrawn from the event due to their ongoing injuries and Caio Ibelli (BRA), Frederico Morais (PRT) and Marco Mignot (FRA) will replace them.
Marc Lacomare (FRA) has been selected as the Quiksilver wildcard and Jorgann Couzinet (FRA) has earned his place in the event as the highest-ranked French surfer on the Qualifying Series Rankings following the conclusion of the EDP Billabong Pro Ericeira.
The Roxy Pro wildcard has been awarded to 2017 WSL Junior Champion Vahine Fierro (FRA).
France to host final edition of 2019 Red Bull Airborne
The event will also feature the conclusion of the Red Bull Airborne for 2019, an aerial specialty event featuring 18 of the most innovative surfers in the air, both on and off the Championship Tour. The event window for the Red Bull Airborne France will open tomorrow and run through October 9, 2019.
18 surfers will be featured across two rounds. The first round will host six qualifying heats (Qualifying Rounds 1 and 2) with six surfers in each heat. The second round will be the six-person Final.
The first call will be tomorrow, Thursday, October 3 at 8:30 a.m. local time for a possible 9:05 a.m. start at Les Culs Nuls. Event organizers will assess the conditions and decide the day’s competition schedule.
The Quiksilver and Roxy Pro France will be broadcast LIVE on WorldSurfLeague.com, the WSL’s Facebook page, and the WSL app. Also, check local listings for coverage from the WSL’s broadcast partners.
Quiksilver Pro France Seeding Round (Round 1) Matchups:
Heat 1: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN), Griffin Colapinto (USA), Soli Bailey (AUS)
Heat 2: Italo Ferreira (BRA), Caio Ibelli (BRA), Frederico Morais (PRT)
Heat 3: Kolohe Andino (USA), Yago Dora (BRA), Leonardo Fioravanti (ITL)
Heat 4: Jordy Smith (ZAF), Sebastian Zietz (HAW), Jorgann Couzinet (FRA)
Heat 5: Filipe Toledo (BRA), Joan Duru (FRA), Marc Lacomare (FRA)
Heat 6: Gabriel Medina (BRA), Michael Rodrigues (BRA), Marco Mignot (FRA)
Heat 7: Owen Wright (AUS), Willian Cardoso (BRA), Ricardo Christie (NZL)
Heat 8: Julian Wilson (AUS), Adrian Buchan (AUS), Jadson Andre (BRA)
Heat 9: Kelly Slater (USA), Conner Coffin (USA), Jesse Mendes (BRA)
Heat 10: Seth Moniz (HAW), Wade Carmichael (AUS), Ezekiel Lau (HAW)
Heat 11: Ryan Callinan (AUS), Deivid Silva (BRA), Peterson Crisanto (BRA)
Heat 12: Michel Bourez (FRA), Jeremy Flores (FRA), Jack Freestone (AUS)
Roxy Pro France Seeding Round (Round 1) Matchups:
Heat 1: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), Brisa Hennessy (CRI), Paige Hareb (NZL)
Heat 2: Lakey Peterson (USA), Bronte Macaulay (AUS), Macy Callaghan (AUS)
Heat 3: Carissa Moore (HAW), Nikki Van Dijk (AUS), Vahine Fierro (PYF)
Heat 4: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), Johanne Defay (FRA), Keely Andrew (AUS)
Heat 5: Caroline Marks (USA), Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA), Coco Ho (HAW)
Heat 6: Courtney Conlogue (USA), Malia Manuel (HAW), Silvana Lima (BRA)
Red Bull Airborne Bali Qualifying Round 1 Matchups:
Heat 1: Julian Wilson, Eithan Osborne, Kalani David, Reef Heazlewood, Matt Meola, Albee Layer
Heat 2: Noa Deane, Kevin Schultz, Griffin Colapinto, Ian Crane, Matt Banting, Nomme Mignot
Heat 3: Chippa Wilson, Jack Freestone, Eric Gieselman, Finn Mcgill, Cam Richards, Maxime Huscenot
Red Bull Airborne Bali Qualifying Round 2 Matchups:
Heat 1: Noa Deane, Jack Freestone, Eric Geiselman, Ian Crane, Matt Meola, Albee Layer
Heat 2: Julian Wilson, Kevin Schultz, Finn Mcgill, Reef Heazlewood, Matt Banting, Maxime Huscenot
Heat 3: Chippa Wilson, Eithan Osborne, Griffin Colapinto, Kalani David, Cam Richards, Nomme Mignot