JEEP Rankings Leader and current World Champion John John Florence of Hawaii advanced to the Quarterfinals after winning Heat 2 of Round Four at the Quik Pro Gold Coast, Australia.

The stage is set for a thrilling final series at the Quiksilver and Roxy Pro Gold Coast after a huge day of action that saw competition run through men’s Rounds 3, 4 and 5, and women’s Round 4 in three-to-five foot surf (1 – 1.5 metre) at Snapper Rocks. The world’s best surfers battled for their place in the Quarterfinals at the opening stop of the World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT).

Reigning WSL Champion John John Florence (HAW) won his Round 4 heat to earn his place in the Quarterfinals and continue his run at Snapper Rocks. Florence took down 2012 WSL Champion Joel Parkinson (AUS) and Italo Ferreira (BRA) in Heat 2. The 24-year-old Champion has yet to drop a heat in this event and will work to best last year’s 5th place finish.

“The wind came up before that heat and was blowing into the wave faces which made it super tricky,” Florence said. “It’s really difficult to find those open faces and get the turns in that you want to. Non-elimination heats are always good, but making the Quarterfinals is a good feeling.”

Parkinson and Ferreira will both join Florence in the Quarterfinals after winning through their Round 5 heats. Ferreira eliminated Kolohe Andino (USA) while the 2012 World Champ got the better of 2015 WSL Champion Adriano de Souza (BRA) in an all-star Round 5 match-up. Parkinson looked unstoppable throughout the bout as he threw two excellent 8-point rides, forcing the Brazilian Champion into a combination situation and out of the contest.

“In these conditions wave selection is key,” Parkinson said. “It’s the worst wind for Snapper and you have to pick the eyes out of it. There’s only two or three good waves a heat and luckily I got two. Adriano [de Souza] is always a hard man to beat, however I’m stoked to make it.”

Owen Wright of Australia continues his winning comeback to Championship Tour compeition by eliminated close friend and team mate, 3X World Champion Mick Fanning in Heat 8 of Round Three at the Quik Pro Gold Coast, Australia.

Owen Wright (AUS) continued his incredible comeback from injury to full-time CT competition by eliminating close friend and teammate three-time WSL Champion Mick Fanning (AUS) in an intense Round 3 battle. Both surfers put on an exciting show for the crowd as they opened up Heat 8 with competitive 7-point scores. Wright backed-up his total with an excellent 8.10, forcing Fanning to chase a 7.28. The two-time event winner fell just short on his attempt with a 7.10 and will be eliminated with an Equal 13th place finish.

Wright secured his place in the Quarterfinals after edging out Conner Coffin (USA) in Round 5 and will take on 2017 CT Rookie Connor O’Leary (AUS) when competition continues.

“I’ve had to surf in so many different conditions,” said Wright. “My first heat was emotional and it was huge to recover from that. I surfed three heats today and still feel like I could go again. I’m so stoked to be back amongst it competing and feeling good. It’s gone way better then what I could have planned.”

“It was bitter sweet,” Fanning said. “But to see Owen [Wright] in such great form is amazing. He’s been through so much and we never knew if he’d come back at all. He’s just blown our minds. Even though I lost, it felt like I won. I am extremely stoked for him.”

2014 WSL Champion Gabriel Medina (BRA) also earned his place in the Quarterfinals after dominating Round 4 Heat 4 against 11-time WSL Champion Kelly Slater (USA) and Coffin. En route to his Quarterfinal placement, Medina looked in fine-form with an outstanding 19.00 heat total in Round 3 and a dominant 15.76 in Round 4.

“The knee felt really good,” Medina said. “This morning I felt a little sad because I thought my season was over, but once I was here the doctors took care of me. I want to thank the doctors for helping me. I’m so happy right now and I’m stoked to be in the Quarters. Hopefully the waves get a little better. It’s pretty tricky out there and on the backhand. My board feels really good and I’m stoked to get the win.”

With one last opportunity to make it into the Quarterfinals, Slater did not hold back against current World No. 2 Jordy Smith (ZAF). Slater showcased his variety in difficult conditions and was rewarded with two solid 7-point rides, beating Smith by 1.40 points. Slater will take on Medina in a Quarterfinal superheat when competition continues.

“I trust my surfing and actually relax the further I get in a contest,” Slater said. “Heading into the [Gabriel] Medina heat, if I could pace it the way I wanted, I would like to be ahead and let him sit with priority. I’m from Florida and the North East winds make it feel a little like Cocoa Beach. It’s great surfing against Jordy [Smith], he is my favorite surfer on tour, he has everything.”

Defending event winner Matt Wilkinson (AUS) secured his place in the Quarterfinals after defeating De Souza and 2016 event runner-up Andino in the opening heat of Round 4. The goofy-footer continued his tear with a strong 17.07 combined score. Andino was gunning for the heat win, but an interference call in the final minute disqualified the Californian’s second wave score. Wilkinson will face compatriot Parkinson in the opening heat of the Quarterfinals when competition resumes.

“It was always going to be a tough one as Adriano [de Souza] and Kolohe [Andino] are amazing surfers,” Wilkinson said. “I knew I had to pick the big waves and hit big sections but those bumps were super tricky. I feel confident moving into the quarters and as long as I connect turns I will get the scores.”

2017 CT Rookie Connor O’Leary (AUS) shocked the competition with his Round 4 win against top-seeds Smith and Wright. O’Leary is the last rookie standing in this event and will rematch with Wright in the Quarterfinals. O’Leary claimed his career-first Quarterfinal berth after dispatching World Title contender Julian Wilson (AUS) in Round 3 Heat 9.

“To get a win in Round 4 in my first year, I’m speechless,” O’Leary said. “In the last round I went over a wave and landed wrong. I came in and got some work done and it’s feeling okay. A rest this afternoon will be perfect before the Quarterfinals and I’m stoked to make it through.”

Rookies Frederico Morais (PRT) and Ian Gouveia (BRA) were not able to make it through to the next round after being eliminated by Slater and Medina, respectively.

The day concluded with elimination Round 4 of the Roxy Pro, where the women battled for a coveted spot in the Quarterfinals.

Six-time WSL Champion Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) will advance to the Quarterfinals after a nail-biting heat against current World No. 2 Courtney Conlogue (USA). Conlogue came out the gates swinging with a near-perfect 9.50 to put early pressure on the local favorite. Gilmore answered back with an excellent 8.00 demonstrating control over the challenging conditions. In a battle for the backup scores, Conlogue got an edge with a 6.83, forcing Gilmore to post an 8.34 or higher. With only seconds on the clock, Gilmore threw down one last attempt and was awarded an 8.40, giving her just enough to take the win. Conlogue leaves the event with an Equal 9th place finish.

“At the end of the day I basically gave myself one more chance,” Gilmore said. “Rainbow Bay’s had my back this whole event and I’m lucky it opened up on the inside. Everyone’s so stoked on the beach, it’s awesome. The support on the beach when I ran up made me feel like I won the contest. There were kids that ran the whole way with me —  it’s insane — and that’s why I love this place I call home.”

Sally Fitzgibbons of Australia advanced to the quarterfinals after winning Heat 3 of Round Four at the Roxy Pro Gold Coast, Australia.

After losing out early in Round 2 of the Roxy Pro Gold Coast last season, veteran Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) flew through Round 4 to claim her place in the Quarterfinals. 2017 CT Rookie Bronte Macaulay (AUS) put up a strong fight against Fitzgibbons with powerful backhand snaps, but could not meet the requirement to advance.

“I’m still picking the sand out of my ears,” Fitzgibbon said. “There was a lot going on and it was really just you and the ocean. I haven’t actually surfed Snapper that big for a long time and I’m going to make some equipment adjustments tomorrow. It’s been an amazing atmosphere all day and I’ve been enjoying the energy. I love starting here in Australia.”

Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW) took early control of her heat against Lakey Peterson (USA) with an excellent 8.17, but did not lock in the backup score needed to secure her lead. With time winding down, Peterson fired back with a strong 7.93 to gain the lead. In need of a 5.26, Weston-Webb had one last opportunity to combat the Californian but fell just short with a 5.00. Weston-Webb will be eliminated in 9th place, her worst result at this event.

“I heard a horn blow but thought it was the one to end the previous heat,” Peterson said. “I was pretty frustrated as I blew a perfect set and Tatiana wasn’t even out the back. You can’t control what anyone else does so you just have to be positive and content with your surfing. It’s tricky conditions so you have to learn to surf it all and I think that’s why champions are champions. Again stoked to be here the crowds awesome and it’s so beautiful.”

Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) will also advance through to the next round after taking out Coco Ho (HAW)in Heat 1. Van Dijk exhibited great speed through the wind-chop to earn a 15.67 combined wave score. Ho, who fell short with a 14.94, will be eliminated from the event.

“I’m really used to windy, raw conditions back home in Victoria,” Van Dijk said. “I felt right at home, but I couldn’t hear a thing with the wind. I didn’t know what my scoring waves were. I made a decision to take out a thicker board and it worked really well. I’m excited heading into finals day.”

Event organizers will reconvene tomorrow at 7:00 a.m. local time to assess the conditions and make the next call.

Surfline, official forecast for the Quiksilver and Roxy Pro, are calling for:

The interaction between high pressure over New Zealand and a trough of low pressure east of the Gold Coast has set up the start of a prolonged run of trade windswell/swell that will continue through early next week. Trend to ENE to NE winds expected for Sunday/Monday.

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Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast Round 3 Results (1st to R4, 2nd = 13th):
Heat 8: Owen Wright (AUS) 15.10 def. Mick Fanning (AUS) 15.00
Heat 9: Connor O’Leary (AUS) 14.93 def. Julian Wilson (AUS) 14.70
Heat 10: Kelly Slater (USA) 14.90 def. Frederico Morais (PRT) 11.17
Heat 11: Conner Coffin (USA) 14.33 def. Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 14.20
Heat 12: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 19.00 def. Ian Gouveia (BRA) 14.56

Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast Round 4 Results (1st to QF, 2nd & 3rd to R5):
Heat 1: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 17.07, Adriano de Souza (BRA) 14.97, Kolohe Andino (USA) 8.30
Heat 2: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 14.17, Italo Ferreira (BRA) 13.10, John John Florence (HAW) 9.73
Heat 3: Connor O’Leary (AUS) 10.77, Owen Wright (AUS) 10.66, Jordy Smith (ZAF) 9.77
Heat 4: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 15.76, Kelly Slater (USA) 12.07, Conner Coffin (USA) 11.17

Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast Round 5 Results (1st to QF, 2nd = 9th):
Heat 1: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 17.23 def. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 12.43
Heat 2: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 12.80 def. Kolohe Andino (USA) 10.56
Heat 3: Owen Wright (AUS) 14.76 def. Conner Coffin (USA) 14.17
Heat 4: Kelly Slater (USA) 14.70 def. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 13.30

Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast Quarterfinal Match-Ups (1st to SF, 2nd = 5th):
QF 1: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) vs. Joel Parkinson (AUS)
QF 2: John John Florence (HAW) vs. Italo Ferreira (BRA)
QF 3: Connor O’Leary (AUS) vs. Owen Wright (AUS)
QF 4: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. Kelly Slater (USA)

Roxy Pro Gold Coast Round 4 Results (1st to QF, 2nd = 9th):
Heat 1: 
Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) 15.67 def. Coco Ho (HAW) 14.94
Heat 2: Lakey Peterson (USA) 13.43 def. Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW) 13.17
Heat 3: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 16.50 def. Bronte Macaulay (AUS) 11.83
Heat 4: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 16.40 def. Courtney Conlogue (USA) 16.33

Roxy Pro Gold Coast Quarterfinal Match-Ups (1st to SF, 2nd = 5th):
QF 1: 
Johanne Defay (FRA) vs. Nikki Van Dijk (AUS)
QF 2: Tyler Wright (AUS) vs. Lakey Peterson (USA)
QF 3: Keely Andrew (AUS) vs. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS)
QF 4: Carissa Moore (HAW) vs. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS)