Haleiwa’s John John Florence made his comeback from a knee injury today at the Billabong Pipe Masters.
The two-time World Surf League champion won his second-round elimination heat against Kauai’s Sebastian Zietz and Portugal’s Frederico Morais to make it through to Round 3, which could be as soon as tomorrow, conditions permitting.
Florence is fighting for ratings points against 11-time world champion Kelly Slater for a spot on the two-man U.S. team for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Slater placed second in his first-round heat, to make it straight to the third round.
In the season-long race, Florence, ranked No. 8 on tour, has 33,220 ratings points even though he missed five events with the injury. Slater, at No. 10, has 30,090.
Who gets farther at Pipe has the better shot. By making it to the third round, both are guaranteed at least 1,330 points, and any advancement after that will pile up more points — 3,320 for making the fourth round, 4,745 for getting into the quarterfinals, 6,085 for a semifinals appearance, 7,800 for placing second and 10,000 for a Pipe victory.
Earlier, Florence began Tuesday by finishing third in his first-round heat, and, unlike Slater, needed to get through possible elimination in Round 2.
As the Pipe Masters moves forward, two other big prizes — the world championship and the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing title — will be determined.
The five surfers who are in the chase for the world crown all made it through to the third round with big performances Tuesday — No. 1 Italo Ferreira, No. 2 Gabriel Medina and No. 4 Filipe Toledo of Brazil, No. 3 Jordy Smith of South Africa and No. 5 Kolohe Andino of San Clemente, Calif.
Andino has already secured a U.S. spot in the 2020 Olympics.
The Triple Crown standings leaders are Australia’s Ethan Ewing and Jack Robinson and Portugal’s Frederico Morais.
Hawaii’s Ezekiel Lau and Seth Moniz won their first-round heats Tuesday to also make Round 3, and Zietz, by taking second to Florence in the second round, also advanced.