John John Florence wins WSL Drug Aware Margaret River Pro
Sitting in first
After claiming the 2016 World Surf League World Title, John John Florence is back to his winning ways. Victorious at the Drug Aware Pro at Margaret River, Western Australia, he put in a command performance in pumping six to eight-foot surf. Facing Californian Kolohe Andino, Florence was able to capitalize on big set waves and committed rail work to not only win the contest, but also take over the pole position on the WSL ratings. He's now sitting first in the world and in a strong position to defend his world title.
"This is one of my favorite places to come to in the world," said Florence after his first win of the 2017 season. "There is such an abundance of different and amazing waves. The crowd we get for the event is awesome and it's just such a special event. Thank you to my mom and family. My mom would take me and my brothers to all of our surfing events when we were kids and was always supportive. I wish she was here to celebrate, but I know they are watching at home. My support crew here has been really great and fun to surf and just hang out with, so thank you to those guys."
Within striking distance
For Kolohe Andino's part in things, his runner-up finish moves him up to third in the world and well within striking distance of winning a title of his own. "I'm really stoked with this event," said Andino. "The waves today -- and the entire event for that matter -- have been awesome. You can't ask for much more than big swell and offshore winds. I know I work as hard as anyone else on tour and my surfing is there, but I just need to work on competing right. This event was really John's [Florence] to lose. I am glad I was on the other side of the draw as he was ripping so hard all event. I've been competing against John since as long as I can remember and he has always pushed me a lot, so it was cool to share a CT Final with him."
Tied for first
On the women's side, it was Sally Fitzgibbons that made a statement. Beating world champ Tyler Wright in a tough final, it's Fitzgibbons' tenth world tour event win. For the effort, she slides up the ratings and is tied for first with Stephanie Gilmore.
"When I heard my name being called out as the champion, I really felt a sense of belonging and calm," said Fitzgibbons afterwards. "It's been an amazing couple of weeks here in the West and to finish it off with a win is the best feeling. I love coming to Margaret River. I feel like it's a place that I am super comfortable and familiar with, so it's a special event win for me.
South Coast represent
"I was actually pretty happy with the way I ran the heat," said Tyler Wright. "Just the waves, I thought, were a little bit trickier towards the end there and I just didn't get a clean line, but I am stoked for Sally to come away with the win. I've known Sally since I was nine years old, we live in the same town now, and we are both from the South Coast. I am stoked that both of us were in the final."
"Before the heat, my plan was to stay really active and then once I was out there, it didn't really work out that way," said a frustrated Steph Gilmore. "I couldn't really find a decent wave that would offer an excellent score. In conditions like this you can't expect to find those waves that easily, so you need to keep busy, and I didn't do that. Third is definitely a keeper. It would be nice to win them all, that's what we are here for, but third is definitely nice."
One of the more picturesque spots that the WSL visits, Main Break at Margaret River has long been a proving ground for pro surfing. The open-ocean swells and demanding conditions make it one of the more compelling stops on tour.
Came up short
Kelly Slater came up short in the early stages of the contest, but not before taking full advantage of epic conditions when organizers decided to move the event up to North Point. The 11-time world champ is still one of the best when the waves are pumping.
Fully recovered from a head injury that took him out of competition in 2016, Owen Wright was in fine form in West Oz. He wasn't able to repeat his performance on the Gold Coast where he won the contest, but he did assure everyone that he's definitely back.