Aussie wildcard stuns Slater in Fiji

Australian Mitch Coleborn took full advantage of terrific conditions at the opening day of the Volcom Fiji Pro to upset reigning 11-times world champion Kelly Slater in the opening round.

Nazare Big Wave Surfing

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NAZARE, PORTUGAL - DECEMBER 17: Marcelo Luna of Brazil rides a wave during a big wave session at Praia do Norte on December 17, 2016 in Nazare, Portugal. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

Surfing in six-to-eight foot (two-to-two-and-a-half metres) waves at Cloudbreak, wildcard Coleborn grabbed single-wave scores of 9.27 and 8.10 for the day’s highest heat total of 17.37 out of a possible 20 to best Slater and compatriot Kai Otton in the non-elimination round one clash.

“The heat ended up good but the start was a nightmare,” Coleborn said. “Then I got that one nine-something and it really turned the head around for me.

“I still needed a score though and bagged another solid one at the end. I guess I got a couple of waves between all of the beatings I took.

“Out there on the ledge there are chip shots and you’ve got to be right there under them. That last one was a dream come true. It’s a different thing coming here compared to other contests.

“You knew a swell was coming and it’s Fiji and you just can’t think a bad thought. I’m happy to be here.”

South African Jordy Smith opened the event with a nine-point score after a late drop into a deep backhand barrel, on his way to securing victory over Hawaii’s Fredrick Patacchia and Californian Brett Simpson.

“It was pretty hard out there at first and I’m stoked that I caught two quick ones,” the 24-year-old said.

“On that one nine, it just opened up real perfect. I lucked into it on the way back out when the boys got stuck inside and it just held open and I came out and got a couple of turns in.

“I’m pumped. It’s my first time back to Cloudbreak since my rookie year and I couldn’t have had a better start. It felt fun out there and the waves are just pumping.”

Current world number one Joel Parkinson put in a solid performance to join Coleborn in advancing directly to the third round, with a heat win over Brazil’s Raoni Monteiro and local Isei Tokovu.

“The second half of the heat was really good,” Parkinson said. “The start was washing through and I thought it was going to be a scrappy one but it really turned on.”

John John Florence also booked his place in the third round, recovering from flu in time to secure a come-from-behind win over Brazilian Miguel Pupo and Australian veteran Kieren Perrow.

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