Michel Bourez wins Margaret River Pro
Michel Bourez's first career World Tour win took six years, but when the spray settled and the final of the Margaret River Pro, the second stop of the 2014 ASP World Tour, was over, there was nobody happier in Western Australia.
Matching power with power, Bourez took on the rugged Margaret River lineup with his patented full-rail, no-holds-barred approach and ran away with it. Hands down one of the most powerful surfers on tour, he now has a full head of steam heading into the next tour stop at Bells Beach.
Renowned for his progressive air game, Josh Kerr took advantage of his prowess above the lip as he breezed into the final of the Margaret River Pro. Unable to find the launch pads he was looking for to put away Bourez, Kerr ultimately came up just short of his first ASP World Tour victory.
Going into the final, neither Bourez nor Kerr had won an ASP World Tour event, which added an element of excitement to their matchup. Kerr started strong and stayed active, but the consistency and power of Bourez was not to be denied.
Kelly Slater had his semifinal duel with Bourez under control until the powerful Tahitian dropped a nine-point score in the final minutes and relegated the 11-time world champ to third place. Historically speaking, over the years Bourez has had Slater's number, and unlike most competitors on tour, he has enjoyed relative competitive success against him.
Refocused and intent on doing some damage on tour this year, Bede Durbidge came into the Margaret River Pro knowing this was an event he could do well at. He almost made the final until Kerr pulled a rabbit out of the hat and turned their semifinal in the dying seconds of the heat.
Earning an equal fifth-place finish, the wave at Margaret River fit Jordy Smith's power game perfectly. While he has made his ambitions about vying for a world title this year clear, he is going to have to get a little more clutch in pressure situations if he's going to contend.
The Australian leg has been good to Gabriel Medina, who sits atop the ASP World Tour ratings. "I would have liked to make another final," said Medina after losing out in the quarters, "but this result is still a keeper for me, and now it's time to start focusing and training for Bells."
Contest organizers opted to run Rounds 4 and 5 at The Box, a heavy, unforgiving wave near the main break at Margaret River. Joel Parkinson put his years of experience to good use as he made the sketchy wave look easy.
For the youngsters on tour, like Miguel Pupo, surfing The Box was an opportunity to surf a new wave. There was a bit of a learning curve, as the wave provided as many spectacular wipeouts as it did great tube rides.
When Slater showed up in Western Australia, the big story was that after 23 years he was parting ways with sponsor Quiksilver. After a wobbly start that saw him lose his Round 1 heat, he was able to block out the distraction and get on a roll before Bourez stopped him in the semifinals.
John John Florence
John John Florence's 2014 campaign hasn't kicked off quite like he hoped. Considered a world-title contender going into the year, he couldn't find his footing in Round 3 against Medina and now has a lot of work to do if he hopes to get himself back into contention.
Former world tour competitor and Western Australia native Yadin Nicol had a good run, upsetting 2013 ASP world champion Mick Fanning. He would eventually fall to an in-form Josh Kerr.
Keeping up with where he left off last season, 2013 ASP Rookie of the Year Nat Young put in a strong showing at Margaret River, advancing all the way to the quarterfinals before his run came to an end. He currently sits comfortably in the top 10.