Australian wildcard and Surfest champion Mikey Wright has set up a Quiksilver Pro third-round battle with Gabriel Medina after toppling two-time defending world champion John John Florence on the Gold Coast.
Wright, who won the Mark Richards trophy at Merewether last month, will look to continue his giant killing ways on Wednesday against Brazil's 2014 world champion after his massive upset of the Hawaiian on Tuesday morning.
“I’m so thankful to get this wildcard from Quiksilver and have the opportunity to come up against the world’s best,” Wright said. “Obviously, coming up against the World Champion is going to be tough but anyone on the CT is going to be really tough, so I just wanted to go out and surf my own heat and just work on getting the best waves.”
Florence's second-round exit marked the first time since 1991 that the defending men's world champion had been ejected at the earliest stage of the season's opening event.
Initial plans to hold the men's third round on Tuesday were put on hold, with only second-round heats completed amid a solid Snapper Rocks swell.
Florence had no answers to the variety and power of the 21-year-old from NSW, who combined 7.83 and 7.27 rides.
“Mikey is such a great surfer and he really surfed well in that heat,” Florence said. “His wave choice was so good. Every time I would pull off a wave, he’d be right behind me on a bigger, better wall. You win some and lose some, and I’ll still take a lot from that heat and work on that heading into the next couple of events.”
Medina then won his elimination heat, setting up a battle with the younger brother of defending Quiksilver Pro champion Owen Wright.
Florence had lost his first round heat on Sunday at the World Surf League season-opener, something he avoided during his successful 2017 campaign.
Florence's scores of 5.83 and 4.93 didn't come close to Culburra Beach's Wright, who has been impressive in the second-tier qualifying series so far this year as he attempts to join brother Owen and sister Tyler on the tour full-time.
Australian surfing great Joel Parkinson made a statement in a second-round masterclass to also progress.
In his 18th season on the tour, Parkinson flourished on his home break with 8.33 and 8.70 rides to cruise by American Patrick Gudauskas and into the third round.
Where others had struggled with wave selection, Parkinson found himself in three separate barrels in his heat.
Owen Wright, part-time Novocastrian Julian Wilson and retiring local favourite Mick Fanning are all likely to return to the water on Wednesday when good swell is again predicted.