It took five days for competition to begin at the 2015 Fiji Pro World Championship Tour stop, but it was well worth the wait, as upsets dominated the first day of action from Cloudbreak.
The number-one surfer in the world, Adriano de Souza of Brazil, and arguably the greatest surfer of all time, Kelly Slater, were taken down in their first-round heats by Kai Otton of Australia and Alejo Muniz of Brazil, respectively. Otton is the 30th-ranked surfer in the world and Muniz is ranked 37th. The losses forced Slater and de Souza into the uncomfortable position of having to surf in a second-round elimination heat, and even though they both survived their match-ups, the contest hasn’t been lacking in drama to start.
Adding to the surprise tally was Dane Reynolds' elimination of Josh Kerr, who's currently ranked No. 4 on Tour. Reynolds was invited to surf the event as a wildcard, and while the former Tour competitor has spent the last few years freesurfing his brains out (and uploading the web clips to prove it), his performance at Cloudbreak shows he can still get serious in a singlet.The upsets come on a massive stage. Even though there haven’t been many waves this year, Fiji traditionally offers some of the biggest, cleanest swells on the Tour, and it has become one of the premier destinations in the World Surf League. For de Souza, the upset wasn’t particularly worrisome, given his quick return to form in the second round. For Slater however, the loss is more concerning, and indicative of his poor year to date.
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Slater has yet to win an event on Tour this year, and the 43-year-old is currently ranked 13th in the world. Now that he’s turned it around in his second-round heat, it will be interesting to see if he can mount some momentum and make a push for the world title. Right now, though, just winning a contest would be huge for the 11-time world champion.
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