Florence's Houdini act sees him through to quarters at Pipeline
Feb 7 (Reuters) - John John Florence teleported himself through two unfeasibly long tube rides and into the quarter-finals of surfing's Billabong Pro Pipeline on Tuesday, establishing himself as the hometown favourite after several top rivals were knocked out.
Up against Brazil's Miguel Pupo in the round of 16, the Hawaiian pulled into a long barrel at Backdoor, the shallow righthander off the Pipeline peak, and disappeared for so long the broadcast commentators and crowd on the beach gave up on him.
But Florence, who grew up overlooking Pipeline and started surfing professional contests there as a child prodigy, somehow found an exit to score 9.93 out of 10.
Pupo looked to have fought his way back with a deep tube of his own, only to see Florence fighting his way out of another impossible-looking barrel that he punctuated with a massive aerial over the dangerously shallow reef.
Florence ended the heat with 19.33 out of 20, but other top contenders struggled in the sometimes fickle and challenging waves.
Brazil's three-times world champion Gabriel Medina was knocked out by Australia's Jack Robinson, and 50-year-old, 11-times world champion Kelly Slater, who stunned the surfing world to win the event last year, was also knocked out.
Competition is likely to be completed on Wednesday, with reigning world champion Filipe Toledo from Brazil taking on countryman Joao Chianca in one quarter-final and Florence up against Robinson in another.
South Africa's Jordy Smith will battle Italy's Leo Fioravanti and Liam O'Brien is up against Hawaii's Seth Moniz, a finalist from last year.
On the women's side of the draw, five-times world champion Carissa Moore will take on fellow Hawaiian Bettylou Sakura Johnson in one semi-final, with Australia's Tyler Wright up against Californian Lakey Peterson in the other.
Spots at the 2024 Paris Olympics, being held at the legendary Teahupo'o in Tahiti, beckon for top surfers at the end of the 10-stop global tour.
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