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.

Large Swells Hit NSW North Coast

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SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 27: (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been converted to black and white.) A surfer rides a wave as it breaks near the breakwall at the boat ramp on February 27, 2016 in Coffs Harbour, Australia. Large swells have been experienced along the NSW north coast due to affects of Cyclone Winston which hit Fiji on 20 February. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/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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