|World Champions Slater, Toledo, and Florence Move Straight to Round of 32
11-time World Champion Kelly Slater (USA) earned his first heat win here at Sunset Beach since the World Cup in 2019. The win comes as needed redemption, as Slater suffered an uncharacteristic Elimination Round loss here last year.
“I actually would’ve gotten a pretty good score if I didn’t fall on the floater on the one wave, but the angle I had to take threw me off,” said Slater. “If it’s not a big one on the outside, you’re trying to get the turns done quick before the water gets deep and goes flat on the face. It looked like it might close out, so I was trying to fit it in, which is not really how you want to surf anyway. This year was way different [than my birthday last year], I just hung out at the house with my daughter and her husband Kalani, and it was just one of those nights where everyone was busy doing something.”
Current World Champion Filipe Toledo (BRA) stayed busy in his Opening Round heat but didn’t find a score of significance until the final minutes. With 10 minutes to go, he tracked down a solid Sunset wall and was able to earn an excellent 8.00 (out of a possible 10). He then backed it up with a 5.00 to take the heat win. Pipeline standout Liam O’Brien (AUS) advanced alongside Toledo as wildcard Kai Lenny (HAW) was sent to the Elimination Round.
Two-time World Champion John John Florence (HAW) ended the day with fireworks as he threw down huge maneuvers to earn an excellent 8.33 and a near-excellent 7.50 for the win.
“The waves are actually really fun, it’s a fun size for Sunset, and when I was paddling out, I saw some really clean waves, so I was excited to get a lot of waves,” said Florence. “After the heat ended, I was kind of sad because I didn’t get a lot of waves. Joao (Chianca) and I had a couple of really good battles last year and some really fun heats, so coming out here. I didn’t really know what was going to happen, so I just focused on myself and was stoked to get some good waves.”