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Surfing-Dominant Florence into Bells quarter-final as mid-year cut prompts protest

Surfing-Dominant Florence into Bells quarter-final as mid-year cut prompts protest

FILE PHOTO: Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Surfing - Tsurigasaki Surfing Beach, Tokyo, Japan - July 25, 2021. John John Florence of the United States in action during Heat 4 REUTERS/Lisi Niesner/File Photo

Hawaii's two-time world champion John John Florence notched up the highest score of the day to storm into the quarter-finals of the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach on Friday, as a new mid-season cut prompted a protest from top surfers.

Bells, professional surfing's longest-running contest now in its 59th year, enjoyed some classic conditions with long, clean waves allowing the surfers to showcase a range of powerful turns and explosive hits.

For the second day running, no one did that better than Florence, a recent winner at the famed right-hand point break in the southern Australian state of Victoria.

Florence scored 17.77 out of 20 to overcome Australian Morgan Cibilic in the round of 16, after a massive 18.86 heat score total on Thursday.

"That felt good to beat Morgan after last year, we had a couple of heats where he kinda smoked me, so that was fun," Florence said.

"The last two days have been pretty much as good as you can imagine Bells being - the size, the wind, everything, it's amazing."

On the women's side of the draw, Australian Tyler Wright is shaping up as the one to beat after two excellent scoring waves in her quarter-final victory over countrywoman Bronte Macaulay.

Hawaii's world and Olympic champion Carissa Moore got the better of Australian Stephanie Gilmore in their quarter-final, while current ratings leader Brisa Hennessy from Costa Rica just held on against France's Johanne Defay.

There was controversy out of the water as more than two dozen surfers signed a letter urging organising body World Surf League to rethink a mid-year cut that will halve men's and women's fields for the final five events of the tour.

The cut is part of a raft of changes introduced in the past two years to streamline the tour and get the best surfers matching up more often in the best conditions.

But with the cut looming after the next contest at Margaret River in Western Australia later this month, many surfers were rethinking their support for the changes.

"I want to be very clear that it is inconceivable that we could, should or would eliminate the mid-season cut, which is the foundation of our redesigned Championship Tour," WSL CEO Erik Logan said in a written response to the surfers, seen by Reuters.

"Eliminating the mid-season cut would, at this time, put the WSL in breach of several significant contracts, jeopardise relationships with sponsors and government partners, and put multiple events at risk of being cancelled," Logan added, offering to meet with surfers.

(Reporting by Lincoln Feast in Sydney; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

Source: Reuters


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