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Florence scores perfect 10 at Margaret Pro | Port Lincoln Times

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Two-time world champion John John Florence has continued his love affair with the Margaret River Pro, producing a perfect 10-point ride during the opening-day heats.

Florence, a two-time winner in Margaret River, threaded a long, deep barrel before coming out and finishing the ride with a solid close-out turn on the way to winning his opening round heat in massive conditions on Sunday.

The 28-year-old produced a two-wave total of 17.50 to finish ahead of Michel Bourez (12.00) and Australian Mikey Wright (7.50) to book direct passage into round three.

“That was really fun,” Florence said on an afternoon when the waves grew to be bigger than 12 foot.

“I wasn’t even looking to go for that wave because it looked like a closeout, then when I got it I was actually looking to go for turns then last minute I pulled in to the barrel and it just kept going and it stayed open all the way.

“It’s a really unpredictable barrel here at Main Break, but there are definitely good ones out there if you can find them. I’m surfing on the same board I have surfed out here for the last few years and it always seems to do the job.”

Filipe Toledo, Jordy Smith, Italo Ferreira, Gabriel Medina, Griffin Colapinto, and Australian Julian Wilson were other notable names to book their ticket into round three.

But tour rookie Morgan Cibilic, who eliminated Florence from the past two events, was relegated to the elimination second round after finishing last in his three-man heat.

In the women’s event, seven-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore will have to do it the hard way after finishing last in her opening-round heat.

Gilmore was a hot favourite to progress straight to the round of 16.

But the 33-year-old failed to get going in the six-to-eight foot conditions, tallying a two-wave total of 7.13 to fall just short of Isabella Nichols (7.93) and well adrift of Brisa Hennessy (11.00).

It means Gilmore has been thrust into the elimination second round, where she will take on Malia Manuel and Willow Hardy.

Gilmore finished in fifth spot in the opening three events of the WSL season, and is aiming for a good result in Margaret River to climb up the standings from her current position of fifth.

Australian Keely Andrew and Americans Sage Erickson and Courtney Conlogue were other high-profile surfers who failed to earn a direct passage into round three.

Star Australian duo Sally Fitzgibbons and Tyler Wright safely progressed, along with Tatiana Weston-Webb, Caroline Marks, Carissa Moore, Nikki Van Dijk, Johanne Defay, and West Australian Bronte Macaulay.

Amuro Tsuzuki earned the first heat win by a Japanese woman in more than 20 years when she topped her group featuring Caroline Marks and Malia Manuel.

Fitzgibbons was thrilled to get through in the big conditions, and was happy to avoid hitting any rocks.

“You get those moments out there and you see that end section and your adrenaline brain says, ‘yeah you’ve got heaps of space’,” Fitzgibbons told the WSL broadcast.

“And when you’re a bit more logical, you’re like, ‘oh, that was a close call’. But you want to give it everything.”

Australian Associated Press



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