I love a bit of toilet humour, but rarely get a chance to use it in contest reports without it sounding contrived and lame. Today was different. Griffin Colapinto had a toilet story for the live webcast that was inimitable. His recap of a last-minute dash to the toilet to quickly pull off his wetsuit and ‘drop the kids off at the pool’ (his words) before the heat was pure, live-feed gold.

“Oh man, I just had a coffee and I had to go for a number two,” said Griffin with a big smile on his face. “I had my 3/2 full suit on, so I had to paddle from the back, rip my jersey off, drop the kids off at the pool, and race back out with two minutes to go.” Rosy was somewhat aghast, but Pottz and the boys absolutely loved the story. It worked for Griffin too. He was obviously feeling buoyant after his bowel movement, and he won the first heat of the day, beating Kanoa Igarashi into second and sending an out-of-rhythm Soli Bailey into the eliminations.

In fact, so bolstered was I by his breathless run of unscripted potty comedy that I immediately phoned a WSL friend on site, to get a bit more about the vibe down there. Had the WSL chilled a little with regards to muting the post-heat interview experiences? Were we going to have more fun at this event? The mind was boggling – pardon the pun.

“It's a great contest site down here, they have done a good job here, and Red Bull has really stepped up,” said my insider onsite. “This contest is really challenging though,” my insider continued. “They need to move the contest up and down. It’s not just a case of setting up the contest in front of the wave.” Things sounded like they were pretty good in the south-east corner of the Bay of Biscay.

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‘You have to go for the big airs, or you have to get the big barrels, otherwise, you’re out of the game,’ is a paraphrasing of the constant thread of commentator conversation around the middle of the opening day of competition. Around the time of Yago Dora and Gabriel Medina’s heats, there were some massive airs being thrown around, with Dora hucking a huge backhand air into the mix for an 8-point ride. Then Jeep Leaderboard number one, Gabriel Medina, caught nineteen very quick waves, which featured an air attempt on pretty much every one of them. With plenty of waves on offer, the tactic was clear – try as many big punts as possible and eventually you will find the landing gear. He ended up sticking two massive ones, which was all that he needed.

“I feel fit and I’ve got a great board under my feet,” said the yellow-jerseyed Brazilian. “It looks like conditions are going to be fun for this event.”

It seemed that airs were going to make the difference, and going to produce winners on opening day. The conditions were prime for wafts, with ramp sections everywhere and a little drift of wind from the side to make it just that much easier.

Having said that, Owen Wright was having none of it. Sometimes mentioned in the same breath as surfers lacking in air game, Wright was pretty much airless this heat as well, apart from one sneaky fins-free credit-card reverse. Aside from that one move, Wright was surfing off the rail and on the face. He looked formidable. Fast and powerful, throwing tail and coming out of his moves with plenty of speed. The judges appreciated what he was doing, and he banked the highest heat score of the round with 15.10 points for his performance. Willian Cardosa came second, with a powerful performance, while an off-form Ricardo Christie headed for the elims.

Slater decided that the best way forward was to put on a mixed approach, and proceeded to put on the most exciting display of the day. He performed some massive power gouges, full rail carves and critical hooks, combined with a full rotation forehand air. His first, forehand layback power carve was, in the words of Martin Potter, “The move of a young man.” Slater’s surfing was fast, it was tight and it was super-critical. He was energetic, and he was inspired.

In the post heat interview, he was somewhat subdued. He mentioned bad jetlag, he mentioned being tired, and he also casually mentioned his ‘little, hand-shaped board’ that seemed to be performing magic out there.

There was more to it though. Earlier this morning, before the contest had begun, Slater was surfing further down the beach, and from various eyewitnesses, was having an incredible session, snagging some solid barrels, and throwing some huge airs. One or two of the competitors mentioned seeing this one, crazy, unbelievable air that he stuck without fanfare on this little side bank. There’s something going on. It’s easy to call Slater for the win. Maybe because so many of us would love to see him do it.

It might not be about a win though. It might be that Slater has found his inner Yoda again, is living in the moment, and not dwelling on the end game, which could see him crushing a few more competitors in France. If he doesn't go for the win, he just might get the win if you buy into the psychology of it. While the world title may be out of reach, Slater can still be a factor in the destiny of other surfers – a role he thrives on.

In this heat he left Jesse Mendes in second and sent Conner Coffin into the dreaded eliminations. Even if there’s nothing more to it than the eldest competitor having a great heat, it was the best entertainment of the round.    

 

Quiksilver Pro France Seeding Round (Round 1) Results:
HEAT 1: Griffin Colapinto (USA) 12.50 DEF. Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 11.90, Soli Bailey (AUS) 8.07
HEAT 2: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 11.94 DEF. Frederico Morais (PRT) 10.10, Caio Ibelli (BRA) 9.60
HEAT 3: Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 14.40 DEF. Yago Dora (BRA) 14.33, Kolohe Andino (USA) 14.00
HEAT 4: Jorgann Couzinet (FRA) 12.67 DEF. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 12.66, Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 9.26
HEAT 5: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 12.63 DEF. Joan Duru (FRA) 10.60, Marc Lacomare (FRA) 9.74
HEAT 6: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 14.40 DEF. Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 11.87, Marco Mignot (FRA) 11.04
HEAT 7: Owen Wright (AUS) 15.10 DEF. Willian Cardoso (BRA) 13.34, Ricardo Christie (NZL) 7.94
HEAT 8: Julian Wilson (AUS) 11.44 DEF. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 9.57, Jadson Andre (BRA) 9.47
HEAT 9: Kelly Slater (USA) 13.84 DEF. Jesse Mendes (BRA) 11.67, Conner Coffin (USA) 9.94
HEAT 10: Seth Moniz (HAW) 12.24 DEF. Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 10.50, Wade Carmichael (AUS) 10.13
HEAT 11: Peterson Crisanto (BRA) 13.84 DEF. Ryan Callinan (AUS) 11.67, Deivid Silva (BRA) 11.67
HEAT 12: Jack Freestone (AUS) 11.77 DEF. Jeremy Flores (FRA) 9.10, Michel Bourez (FRA) 8.90