|Slater, Lau, Baker, O’Brien, Andino and Mamiya Keep Qualification Dreams Alive with Opening Round Wins
Kelly Slater (USA) was in top form today as he bested current No. 1 Joao Chianca (BRA) in Heat 6 of the Opening Round. The 11X World Champion is currently in 26th on the rankings and needs this to be the best result of his season in order to make the Mid Season-Cut. The urgency of significant result in Margaret River was evident as Salter turned in his best performance of the 2023 season.
“That heat felt good, it felt nice,” Slater said. “I got on a new board for that heat, and it felt quite a lot better than what I had been surfing, which was nice. This is a big week for a lot of people on tour with the Cut and everything, including me. I always surf my best when I’m coming up against the best or have a massive reason to lift my performance, so I really feel up for the challenge this week. Hopefully, we will get some more good waves. It looks like we will.”
Also needing a big result here at Margaret River is Ezekiel Lau (HAW). Lau has had a slow start to the season, and today marks his second heat win of 2023. He will need to continue this run deep into the draw if he is to save his spot on the CT.
In an all-Australian matchup, Jackson Baker emerged victorious over Ethan Ewing and Jarvis Earle. Baker is currently just over the Cut line and needed this heat win to keep his qualification campaign alive. Baker looked in touch on the open walls of Main Break, showing massive power on his frontside turns. Another Australian who is currently equal with Baker on the Rankings is Liam O’Brien, who posted the second-highest heat total of the day, which included an excellent 9.07 under an extreme amount of pressure. The CT newcomer overcame current World Champion Filipe Toledo (BRA).
“That one wave was really nice,” O’Brien said. “It held its power and speed down the whole line and allowed me multiple sections to hit, and fortunately, I got the timing right on all of them, which felt good. It just felt good to display what I know I’m capable of. Let’s hope I can continue rolling through the next few rounds.”
California’s perennial title hopeful, Kolohe Andino (USA), has found himself in the unfamiliar spot of fighting for his spot on tour as he currently sits in 30th place on the rankings. Andino found a way to thrive under pressure today, putting on an inspired performance at Main Break, which included massive carves, fins-free surfing and aerials, which ended up earning him a heat total of 13.50 which was enough to take the win over Yago Dora (BRA) and Kanoa Igarashi (JPN).
The last heat of the day saw Hawaiian prodigy Barron Mamiya (HAW) take a clutch win over Matthew McGillivray (ZAF) and Callum Robson (AUS) to keep his making-the-cut dreams alive. It was an important heat for all three surfers, with the second-place progression confirming that McGillivray has made the cut, while Robson’s trip to the Elimination Round could be costly for his hopes to continue into the second half of the season.
Similarly to McGillivray, Connor O’Leary (AUS) was able to secure his spot on the second half of the CT with an impressive heat win over Jordy Smith (RSA) and Michael Rodrigues (BRA) in Heat 11 of the Opening Round.