If you live on the west coast of the U.S., you probably think of the European leg of the ASP World Tour as the surf competitions that are on really late at night. In case you were sleeping while the world’s best surfers were battling it out, here are three things we learned at the Quiksilver Pro France.
The Title Race is Going to Come Down to the Wire
Coming into the France stop, Mick Fanning led the title race, and a win there could’ve made it pretty hard for anyone to catch him. But Mick went down in round three, and Kelly, Joel, and John John all made the semis or better, tightening an already tight race. Those four surfers are all within 7,000 points of each other, so it’s tough to imagine that the title will be mathematically decided before the last stop at Pipeline.
What’s great about this title race is that all four of these surfers are at the top of their game. Kelly continues to get better with age, Mick and Joel have refined their acts and are surfing almost flawlessly, and John John has largely figured out how to use his top-notch free-surfing abilities within competition. Some years the winner—usually Kelly—runs away with the title because no one’s surfing consistently enough to challenge him. This year there are four surfers surfing at some of the highest levels we’ve ever seen, and any one of them could win it.
To Win France, You Have to Get Lucky
The beachbreak at Le Graviere might be shiftier than any stop on tour, even Brazil. The waves were incredible, especially on the last day, but you had to hope that you stayed out of a rip long enough and got lucky enough for one to come right to you, and then you had to hope that the barrel stayed open long enough for you to make it out without snapping your board.
Bad luck is what brought down Mick Fanning. As the number one seed, Mick was paired up with the lowest seed in round three, a wildcard. Typically that’s a big advantage, but the wildcard this time was Dane Reynolds—not your typical just-happy-to-be-competing-with-the-big-boys wildcard. Mick’s second stroke of bad luck was that he just didn’t get any waves in that heat, and Dane got more than enough to take Mick out.
Dane Still Rips
Dane Reynolds’s run to the finals, where he lost to Kelly, was probably the most enjoyable part of the contest. Dane’s never been the most consistent competitor, but the shifty but heavy beachbreak peaks seemed to play perfectly into his devil-may-care style. He didn’t have to think much about priority or other competitive tactics—never his strong suit—and was free to just go out there and surf. And watching Dane surf is always a treat.
Dane had some good luck to go with his great surfing. He won two heats—one against Mick, one against Kolohe Andino—not so much because of his surfing but more because his opponent literally drifted out to sea. All Dane had to do was avoid the rips long enough to score a few points. And Dane won his semi-final against John John by the smallest of margins—it could’ve gone either way, but Dane won the coin flip.
But it seems that even the luckiest surfer can’t match Kelly Slater on a hot streak, and Dane didn’t seem like much of a match for Kelly in the final. That’s two wins in a row for Kelly, and he seems like he’s on a roll. We’ll see if anyone can stop him at the next late-night stop, in Portugal.