By Georgia Grimond, Senior Contributing Report
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The world surf season is coming to an end today, December 17th, with two big competitions taking place simultaneously in Hawaii. In the Billabong Pipe Masters the contenders have been whittled down to nine, and in the World Surf League (WSL) title competition only three riders remain: Australian Mick Fanning from Australia, and Adriano de Souza and Gabriel Medina, who are both Brazilians originally from São Paulo state.
Fanning earned his place in the final after taking on local and pipeline specialist, John John Florence and then surfing legend Kelly Slater. Described as the “heat of the year” Fanning triumphed with a score of 17.30 to win, putting him through to the next round.
Having had a tough year after suffering a dramatic shark attack in South Africa in July, his success yesterday was in spite of learning of his brother, Pete’s, death in Australia shortly before he was due to compete.
Posting on Instagram, he said, “Today was one of the most challenging days of my life but I knew I could find the strength to take part in the final event of the season because that’s what Pete would want. I also want to give special thanks to my other brothers – my friends on tour – for their support, I couldn’t have got through today without them.”
He will have a tough ride today against current world-title holder, Medina, who has been on strong form throughout the competition and is a serious contender to win the title again. “I like these type of waves and I don’t feel pressure from the World Title because these guys are a little bit ahead of me,” Medina said. “I just focus on my heat, my job and this is great even though it’s not Finals day, a lot is happening and it’s really exciting.
Fellow countryman de Souza, who is known at home as Mineirinho, is ranked third in the world. He is chasing his first-ever world title and has a big job ahead of him. “I feel blessed for the day we have and I’m so happy to make the two heats and keep my World Title dreams alive,” De Souza said.
“There are a lot of people talking and I’m not really worried about it. Basically I just need to do my job out there, find my waves and get out of the barrels – that’s my focus out here and it definitely has improved. The last few years I’ve put in a lot of work over here and I just wanted to get the result today.”
In the Billabong Pipe Masters competition, a wildcard Mason Ho from Hawaii eliminated world Number Two, Filipe Toledo of Brazil in a shock result. The action begins today at 7:30 AM Hawaiian local time.