Fanning, who is better known for his fast, explosive surfing than his barrel riding, snuck into a tube with 13 seconds on the clock to earn the 8.80 that won him the heat. Prior to that wave, Fanning trailed Dean Morrison (AUS) by 6.50 points.
"I knew I could get the 6.00 or the 7.00 if I could just get the wave," Fanning said. "I was looking at those rights all day long and I was lucky that I snuck into one at the end. I didn't think that wave was going to be all that great, but it sectioned off a bit longer than I thought and I got lucky. I haven't beaten Dean in so long so I'm stoked to get him back."
Fanning's two wave total of 17.57 out of 20.00 was the highest of the day. Pair his Round 1 performance at Ex-Isla Alacran with his final berth in Tahiti and it's hard to believe that barrel riding has not always been his forte.
"I've worked really hard on it," Fanning said. "I knew that if I was going to have any chance of winning the world title, I'd have to go and practice riding barreling lefts and that's what I did. I went to Teahupoo early and surfed it everyday and I feel comfortable out there. I came here early too."
Fanning has made the final in two of three events this year and has won the first contest of the year. His worst finish of 2007 is a 3rd place result in Bells Beach, Australia. Despite the hype that Fanning looks like he could bring the world title back to Australia for the first time since Mark Occhilupo (AUS) won it in 1999, the Gold Coast surfer swares he's taking it all in stride.
"There's no pressure because it's a long year and there has only been three events," Fanning said. "You can't rest on your laurels when you've only had three events. You've got to go out there and keep attacking and that's what I'm doing. I'm not going to stop until the end."
Flores' event-high wave score of 9.63 out of 10.00 helped him send Bernardo Miranda (BRA) and Mick Lowe (AUS) to the first elimination round today. The highest rated rookie on tour (he currently sits 9th in the ratings) beat current world No. 2 Taj Burrow in Round 1 of the last stop on tour in Tahiti – the same event in which he eliminated eight-time ASP World Champion Kelly Slater (USA) in Round 4.
"It was just a really peaky wave; there was a right and a left," Flores said of his high scoring ride. "Bernardo was in a good spot too, but he didn't really hassle so I was lucky with that. I took the wave and the opportunity. At the start, I didn't really see the barrel because it wasn't too clean, but at the end, it got really round and really good."
Flores, like several of the surfers competing in the Rip Curl Pro Search Chile, surfed the wave for the first time yesterday. He was pleased with the quality of the break.
"Last year, I saw the waves they had in Mexico and heard Rip Curl say, 'we're going to try to find the best waves in the world,' so I was positive they were going to find a really good wave for this year," Flores said. "It is a sick wave and I think we're really lucky to be here."
Defending Rip Curl Pro Champion Andy Irons (HAW) wasn't feeling quite as lucky when fellow Hawaiian Pancho Sullivan took out their Round 1 heat. Sullivan, who is large in stature and generally revels in bigger, heavier waves, was delighted to surf such a powerful break.
"I love surfing meaty waves that really get the adrenaline going," Sullivan said. "You've got to really position yourself late to get a good barrel here – every takeoff is critical. That's what this whole tour is about – pushing the level of performance in heavier, consequential waves. I think this is an incredible move by Rip Curl to create an event like this where the objective is to roam the planet and find the best waves possible."
Burrow, like Irons, will also negotiate Round 2 after finishing second in his three-man heat. Wildcard Kekoa Bacalso (HAW) beat Burrow and rookie Ben Dunn (AUS) to advance to Round 3. Bacalso has already enjoyed a certain amount of success in the elite tour arena – he's claimed the scalps of a couple full-time Foster's ASP World Tour surfers during his stints as a wildcard.
"Taj is a badass surfer and I just had to focus on what I had to do and not worry about him," Bacalso said. "I just went out there with an open mind and stuck to my game plan. I somehow got a couple rights and won the heat."
Slater also won his heat today. Coming into the event rated World No. 6, the eight-time ASP World Champion hinted that he almost skipped the event but changed his mind when he saw the outstanding swell forecast for the June 20 to July 1 waiting period.
"I'm basically motivated to be here by the quality of swell and the wave that we get to surf – the combination of the two," Slater said. "Coming to Chile too – this is the first time we've had a tour event in Chile and I thought that because of that, it would be important to be here and see what it was all about and meet the people."
Bobby Martinez (USA), Bruce Irons (HAW), Raoni Monteiro (BRA), Phillip Macdonald (AUS), Damien Hobgood (USA), Joel Parkinson (AUS) and Victor Ribas (BRA) also won their first ever competitive clashes in Chile today.
Unfavorable winds forced event officials to call off the remaining four heats of Round 1. Another call on competition status will be made tomorrow morning at 7am. Swell forecasts courtesy of Ben Matson at www.swellnet.com indicate that waves could approach 10 foot (three plus metres) by tomorrow afternoon.
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www.aspworldtour.com/2007/ripcurlpro for transcribed athlete interviews, downloadable wav files, hi-res images, heat by heat updates and more!
RIP CURL SEARCH PRO ARICA - ROUND 1 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Bobby Martinez (USA) 15.50, Troy Brooks (AUS) 7.50, Ricky Basnett (ZAF) 2.33
Heat 2: Bruce Irons (HAW) 12.67, Gabe Kling (USA) 6.27, Adrian Buchan (AUS) 5.07
Heat 3: Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 10.50, Neco Padaratz (BRA) 4.37, Tom Whitaker (AUS) 2.17
Heat 4: Phillip MacDonald (AUS) 13.16, Bede Durbidge (AUS) 5.17, Luke Munro (AUS) 3.60
Heat 5: Damien Hobgood (USA) 17.56 , David Weare (ZAF) 11.40, Adriano de Souza (BRA) 6.76
Heat 6: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 16.40, Bruno Santos (BRA) 5.33, Luke Stedman (AUS) 2.40
Heat 7: Pancho Sullivan (HAW) 12.84, Andy Irons (HAW) 12.33, Kieren Perrow (AUS) 8.43
Heat 8: Mick Fanning (AUS) 17.57, Dean Morrison (AUS) 15.27, Christian Morello (CHL) 7.40
Heat 9: Kelly Slater (USA) 13.24, Chris Ward (USA) 10.33, Manuel Selman (CHL) 8.50
Heat 10: Kekoa Bacalso (HAW) 13.67, Ben Dunn (AUS) 13.20, Taj Burrow (AUS) 11.27
Heat 11: Victor Ribas (BRA) 14.66, Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 14.34, Daniel Wills (AUS) 6.36
Heat 12: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 16.96, Bernardo Miranda (BRA) 14.50, Michael Lowe (AUS) 6.93
RIP CURL SEARCH PRO ARICA REMAINING ROUND 1 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 13: Travis Logie (ZAF), Greg Emslie (ZAF), Royden Bryson (ZAF)
Heat 14: Cory Lopez (USA), Leonardo Neves (BRA), Shaun Cansdell (AUS)
Heat 15: Kai Otton (AUS), Josh Kerr (AUS), Rodrigo Dornelles (BRA)
Heat 16: Taylor Knox (USA), CJ Hobgood (USA), Dayyan Neve (AUS)