VIDEO: Brevard Native Kelly Slater Ready For Opening of World Surf League Outerknown Fiji Pro

By  //  June 4, 2017

World’s Best Surfers Ready For Opening Day

ABOVE VIDEO: Brevard County’s own Kelly Slater faces off against Kolohe Andino and Sebastian Zietz in the Fiji Pro 2016.

(WORLD SURF LEAGUE) – The world’s best surfers, including Brevard’s own Kelly Slater, have arrived in the South Pacific for Stop No. 5 on the 2017 World Surf League Championship Tour, the Outerknown Fiji Pro, which starts today and runs through 16.

The 2017 World Title race is closer than ever heading into Fiji with only 300 points separating No. 1 on the Jeep Leaderboard, John John Florence (HAW), from 2015 WSL Champion Adriano de Souza (BRA), and 2017 World Title contenders Jordy Smith (ZAF) and Owen Wright (AUS).

Florence has been in form all season, but a Round 3 exit in Rio shortened his lead on the elite field of competitors.

The reigning WSL Champion will look to best last year’s 5th place finish and make it to the Final for the first time at this event in order to retain the coveted yellow Jeep Leader Jersey.

The world’s best surfers have arrived in the South Pacific for Stop No. 5 on the 2017 World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), the Outerknown Fiji Pro, which runs from June 4 – 16, 2017.

“It looks like the swell is going to pick up a bit,” said Florence.

“It’ll be really fun for us to watch the girls go at it in the Final. The yellow Jeep Leader Jersey makes you a little nervous having it, but at the same time, I am really happy to be in this position coming into Fiji and this part of the year.

“We have a lot of swell coming and I am sure it will be an amazing event.”

Wright’s win on the Gold Coast after returning from injury, high ranking throughout the season and history in Fiji put him in a unique position to reclaim the top spot on the Leaderboard.

The Australian will definitely be one to watch in the South Pacific, as his excellent barrel riding skills earned him an historic Perfect 20 and win in 2015.

ABOVE VIDEO: Gabriel Medina takes on Kelly Slater in Heat 1 of the Semifinals at the Fiji Pro 2016.

“The first few events felt like I had to get back into it and really catch-up to speed, but coming here you cannot help but feel that fun-factor come back,” Wright said.

“I had a few moments where I’ve been thinking about how big it could be, but I know that my instincts have gotten me through. I have to trust my instincts and calm down that bit of nerves that everyone is going to have when faced with a swell like this at Fiji.”

” It is going to be really cool to see the women compete tomorrow. There is a swell coming and it will be amazing.”

With momentum from his recent win at the Oi Rio Pro, De Souza is back in the World Title race as he sits tied with Wright and Smith for World No. 2.

The Brazilian will battle for a fourth consecutive Top 5 result as he comes up against Kanoa Igarashi (USA) and injury replacement Bino Lopes (BRA) in Round 2 Heat 4.

“I’ve been investing a lot of time here at Cloudbreak,” said De Souza.

“I usually do not spend a lot of time here, but last year I stayed an extra week after the event ended. For me it was a great experience to share the lineup with Kelly [Slater] and the locals. I am stoked to improve and I cannot wait to do well out here again.”

ABOVE VIDEO: Gabriel Medina takes on Matt Wilkinson in the Final of the Fiji Pro 2016.

Gabriel Medina (BRA), 2014 WSL Champion, will look to repeat last year’s victory in Fiji to defend his event title.

He will face off against Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) and Nat Young (USA) in Round 1 Heat 8.

Yago Dora (BRA) will join the WSL Top 34 as a wildcard for the second time this season after he caused a sensation at the Oi Rio Pro where he wreaked havoc by eliminating three WSL Champions, Mick Fanning (AUS), Medina and Florence en route to the Semifinals, where he was defeated by eventual winner De Souza.

“I’m very thankful that the WSL has given me the wildcard to compete in Fiji,” Dora said.

“Qualifying for the CT is my dream and another chance to surf against my heros in Fiji is unbelievable. I went to Fiji already this year to surf Cloudbreak. I didn’t get it perfect, but I got an idea of what the waves can do. I can’t wait for the event.”

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Dora will take on current WSL No. 2 Smith and Jack Freestone (AUS) in Heat 5 of Round 1.

Tevita Gukilau (FJI) will complete the draw for the men’s event after winning the local trials and will face reigning WSL Champion and current WSL No. 1 Florence and Josh Kerr (AUS) in Round 1 Heat 6.

Italo Ferreira (BRA) will return to a CT event for the first time since his injury suffered after the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast. Ferreira will see World No. 7 Kolohe Andino (USA) and 2017 WSL Rookie Joan Duru (FRA) in the opening heat of Round 1.

Caio Ibelli (BRA) has withdrawn from the event due to an ankle injury and Bino Lopes (BRA) will compete in his place.

ABOVE VIDEO: The United States Courtney Conlogue defeated Tyler Wright in the semis and will take on Tatiana Weston-Webb in the women’s final tomorrow. 

The Final of the Outerknown Fiji Women’s Pro will look to get underway tomorrow morning.

Courtney Conlogue (USA) and Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW), two of the hardest-charging surfers in the field, will battle for the event title in solid six-foot (10 foot faces) Cloudbreak in front of the world’s best male surfers as they await the commencement of Round 1.

Surfline, official forecaster for the Outerknown Fiji Pro, are calling for:

An overlapping mix of longer and shorter period SW swell prevails Sunday and Monday with fairly strong, but at least somewhat jumbled, surf at Cloudbreak.

The surf will fade Tue-Wed. The next swell of interest is lining up for the end of next week and possibly next weekend, with medium size, mid to longer period energy possible.

The events will be broadcast LIVE via, the WSL app and on Facebook LIVE via the WSL’s Facebook page.

Also check the local listings for coverage on CBS Sports Network in the U.S., Fox Sports in Australia, ESPN in Brazil, Sky NZ in New Zealand, SFR Sports in France and Portugal and as part of the EDGEsport Network.

CLICK HERE for more information.

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Outerknown Fiji Women’s Pro Final Match-Up:

  • Courtney Conlogue (USA) vs. Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW)

Outerknown Fiji Men’s Pro Round 1 Match-Ups:

  • Heat 1: Kolohe Andino (USA), Italo Ferreira (BRA), Joan Duru (FRA)
  • Heat 2: Matt Wilkinson (AUS), Jeremy Flores (FRA), Ethan Ewing (AUS)
  • Heat 3: Owen Wright (AUS), Ezekiel Lau (HAW), Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA)
  • Heat 4: Adriano de Souza (BRA), Kanoa Igarashi (USA), Bino Lopes (BRA)
  • Heat 5: Jordy Smith (ZAF), Jack Freestone (AUS), Yago Dora (BRA)
  • Heat 6: John John Florence (HAW), Josh Kerr (AUS), Tevta Gukilau (FJI)
  • Heat 7: Joel Parkinson (AUS), Frederico Morais (PRT), Jadson Andre (BRA)
  • Heat 8: Gabriel Medina (BRA), Wiggolly Dantas (BRA), Nat Young (USA)
  • Heat 9: Julian Wilson (AUS), Conner Coffin (USA), Stu Kennedy (AUS)
  • Heat 10: Sebastian Zietz (HAW), Connor O’Leary (AUS), Ian Gouveia (BRA)
  • Heat 11: Adrian Buchan (AUS), Michel Bourez (PYF), Miguel Pupo (BRA)
  • Heat 12: Kelly Slater (USA), Mick Fanning (AUS), Bede Durbidge (AUS)