The Hawaiian’s round two victory was a welcomed return to competition following his absence from the ASP WCT since a severe ankle injury sustained on the Gold Coast.
“That’s the best the waves have been since I’ve been here,” Florence said. “The waves just turned on for my heat. It’s such a machine and with these winds every wave’s just perfect. You can really just sit in the barrel the whole way.”
Florence went on to edge out two-time Fiji winner Damien Hobgood, 33, in a close round three battle to advance to round four.
Nat Young, 21, dominated his round two affair against fellow rookie Filipe Toledo (BRA), 18, with a 9.20 and 9.03.
“Those could have been the best waves I’ve ever surfed,” Young said. “It was tough this morning with the devil winds but in that heat it was picture perfect. Right now, you just stand there and get the best barrels ever. It’s so much fun.”
Joel Parkinson, 32, rebounded after missing his round one heat with a 9.33 and 9.10 ensuring round two victory over Dusty Payne, 24.
“Restaurants is a perfect wave,” Parkinson said. “It has a really good line to it and when you come over a set and see the next one, you get butterflies when a good one is coming. You’ve really got to find the medium sized waves out there. If you get the medium one you can get nice long drainers.”
Sebastian Zietz, 25, earned an impressive come-from-behind victory in round two over Adrian Buchan, 30.
In need of an 8.90 with just five seconds remaining on the clock, Zietz drove through a seemingly impossible tube, earning a 8.93 out of 10 for the ride to edge out the Australian.
“It was a small wave and I figured I’d go and try and get the score,” Zietz said. “I took off and thought I blew the heat. Then I had one section and I came out and I just tried to keep dragging it. I drove through that other section and was able to come out. I wasn’t sure if I was going to get the score or not.”
Jordy Smith, 25, winner of the last event in Rio de Janeiro, returned to form after a round one stumble, topping Glenn Hall, 31, in windy afternoon conditions to advance to the third-round.
“It’s extremely windy,” Smith said. “It was really tough to find the open barrels and when the sets came through the wave would barrel and pinch. You had to pick the right waves. I got lucky on one and managed to find a barrel and get two nice turns.”
Kelly Slater, 41, also found his form after a round one absence, taking out his second-round heat against local wildcard Aca Lalabalavu despite a valiant effort from the Fijian.
“That was tough because we had that lull in my heat,” Slater said.
“Me and Aca (Lalabalavu) never got to a good start and missed the best waves of the heat. To be honest, I had some nerves in that heat and I made some funny decisions. I know the waves, but you forget things when you haven’t been free surfing here a lot. It can get a little tricky, but it comes back pretty quick.”
+++UPDATE: Competition on Saturday was called off with conditions not consistent enough at either Cloudbreak or Restaurants. The forecast is promising though and organisers are waiting for better waves to restart competition+++
VOLCOM FIJI PRO REMAINING ROUND 1 RESULTS:
Heat 11: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 17.80, Nat Young (USA) 12.93, Kolohe Andino (USA) 9.10
Heat 12: Brett Simpson (USA) 13.20, John John Florence (HAW) 12.40, Adrian Buchan (AUS) 11.00
VOLCOM FIJI PRO ROUND 2 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Kelly Slater (USA) 16.27 def. Aca Lalabalavu (FJI) 10.90
Heat 2: Mick Fanning (AUS) 14.67 def. Alex Grey (USA) 6.27
Heat 3: Yadin Nicol (AUS) 12.77 def. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 12.60
Heat 4: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 18.47 def. Dusty Payne (HAW) 15.53
Heat 5: Taj Burrow (AUS) 7.87 def. Adam Melling (AUS) 7.76
Heat 6: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 13.50 def. Glenn Hall (IRL) 8.43
Heat 7: Kolohe Andino (USA) 11.50 def. Gabriel Medina (BRA) 9.67
Heat 8: Julian Wilson (AUS) 13.93 def. Alejo Muniz (BRA) 9.04
Heat 9: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 15.57 def. Michel Bourez (PYF) 10.33
Heat 10: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 17.10 def. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 17.06
Heat 11: John John Florence (HAW) 19.80 def. Bede Durbidge (AUS) 12.83
Heat 12: Nat Young (USA) 18.23 def. Filipe Toledo (BRA) 7.60
VOLCOM FIJI PRO ROUND 3 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Taj Burrow (AUS) 18.10 def. Fred Patacchia (HAW) 12.33
Heat 2: John John Florence (HAW) 16.10 def. Damien Hobgood (USA) 16.06
Heat 3: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 18.30 def. Kieren Perrow (AUS) 14.70
UPCOMING VOLCOM FIJI PRO REMAINING ROUND 3 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 4: Jeremy Flores (FRA) vs.Miguel Pupo (BRA)
Heat 5: Kai Otton (HAW) vs. Sebastian Zietz (HAW)
Heat 6: Kelly Slater (USA) vs. Mitchel Coleborn (AUS)
Heat 7: Mick Fanning (AUS) vs. Heitor Alves (BRA)
Heat 8: C.J. Hobgood (USA) vs. Travis Logie (ZAF)
Heat 9: Josh Kerr (AUS) vs. Brett Simpson (USA)
Heat 10: Julian Wilson (AUS) vs. Kolohe Andino (USA)
Heat 11: Nat Young (USA) vs. Matt Wilkinson (AUS)
Heat 12: Joel Parkinson (AUS) vs. Yadin Nicol (AUS)