The ASP Elite Prepare for the European Leg of the 2011 World Tour.
As the dust settles from the Hurley Pro, the ASP Top 34 head out to the pounding barrels of Hossegor, France. The Quiksilver Pro France scored some heavy pits last year, and this year contest organizers are hoping for the same. The mobile contest is set up to take advantage of the tide-sensitive sandbars that produce shifting peaks from La Penon to La Piste. But everyone knows the best break in Hossegor is La Graviere, or “The Gravel” in English, named after the coarse sand that delivers the best barrels in Europe.
At this point in the season, after 7 out of 11 events, the race for the World Title is shaping up with two clear contenders. Those two are Kelly Slater and Owen Wright. Joel Parkinson and Adriano De Souza are still in the mix, and there is a mathematical chance for Kerr, Burrow, and Fanning. But it’s clearly a Slater and Wright show now, and the new rivals head to France after a record three consecutive final appearances together. I will be shocked if both of them are not in the quarters. Both are competent in whatever the ocean throws at them, so swell conditions are irrelevant. It is their competitive drive that takes them to the finals, and a little skill I guess.
The ASP mid-year cut was after New York, so this will be the second event for newcomers Gabriel Medina, Miguel Pupo, and John John Florence. While Medina and Pupo are well known for their aerial acrobatics, they will have to show off their tube riding skills if they hope to stand a chance if La Graviere is macking. Medina just re-signed a multi-year deal with his longtime sponsor Rip Curl, so you can bet he will want to make them appreciate their investment. John John on the other hand has it all. He has arguably one of the best air repertoires on the planet and big tube riding skills to match. If the waves are like last year, John John will make the quarters easily and upset some Top 10 rated surfers along the way.
Depending on the swell, and it’s been huge in France of late, there are a few other standouts that come to mind. Adriano De Souza will be in the thick of things no matter what the swell is doing. Nobody can contain his drive to win and sheer energy. Josh Kerr will be a threat no matter the size. If its small he will take to the air. If its big he will get slotted in deep tubes. Mick Fanning is the reigning Quik Pro France Champion and can defend his title in any size swell. Taj Burrow needs a win. If it is head high, then you can count on Taj making a big push to the podium. If the waves are huge again this year, then regular-foot chargers like Michel Bourez, Dan Ross, Taylor Knox, Dusty Payne, Raoni Monteiro, and local boy Jeremy Flores will be hard to beat. If the lefts are working, then goofy-foots like Freddy P., Ace Buchan, Damo Hobgood, and Matt Wilkinson will be on fire.
My dark-horse pick for the event is none other than Julian Wilson. He had so much momentum going into the semis at Trestles. If he hadn’t gone on that wave with Owen and got the interference then it might have been him standing on the podium with Slater. Julian is the complete package, a new-age Parko if you will. He has airs in his back pocket, the smooth flowing style of Parko, and the competitive fire of a warrior that has missed out on victory. Hungry? Julian’s mindset at France will be the definition of hungry. And that’s what it takes to win an event. You have to want it! – Ryan Richardson
Check out the Quiksilver Pro France next week. The waiting period starts on October 4th and ends on the 13th.
All photos courtesy ASP Images.