Medina's shark fears ease at WA River Pro

Brazilian Gabriel Medina saw sharks in the WA waters last year, but he feels much safer at the Margaret River Pro this time around.

STEPHANIE GILMORE of Australia celebrates after winning the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach at Bells Beach in Melbourne, Australia.
STEPHANIE GILMORE of Australia celebrates after winning the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach at Bells Beach in Melbourne, Australia. Picture: Drew Ryan/Getty Images

Two-time surfing world champion Gabriel Medina says he's happy to be back at the Margaret River Pro despite some scary shark encounters last year.

Medina contemplated pulling out of last year's event after two nearby shark attacks on recreational surfers.

The Brazilian said he also saw sharks when he went into the water.

The Margaret River Pro was eventually cancelled midway through, saving Medina from having to make the tough call.

But the new safety measures put in place this year have convinced Medina that it's safe to surf again.

A shark-spotting drone has been employed, while the WA Fisheries Department will drop an acoustic receiver in the water each day to detect any tagged sharks swimming nearby.

The event was moved from mid-April to late May/early June in order to avoid the annual salmon run.

Medina secured a safe passage through to round three on Wednesday when he topped his opening-round heat.

The 25-year-old, who posted a two-wave score of 14.70, didn't have any shark fears while in the water.

"This year they (the organisers) made us feel more comfortable," Medina said.

"They put out the boats, jet skis, drones, and I'm feeling good. That's why I came back.

"Last year was a tough one. Everywhere we were surfing, we were seeing sharks.

"So yeah we didn't feel too comfortable. But hopefully this year we will have a great contest. It feels good to be back here."

Eleven-time world champion Kelly Slater will have to do things the hard way after finishing last in his first-round heat.

Slater's two-wave total of 10.34 wasn't enough to beat two-time world champion John John Florence (12.84) and Jadson Andre (11.64) on Wednesday.

Florence and Andre will progress straight to round three, while Slater will have to negotiate the elimination second round.

Japan's Kanoa Igarashi, Owen Wright, Julian Wilson, Italo Ferreira, Jeremy Flores, and Jordy Smith were other big-name surfers to progress to round three.

Earlier in the day, seven-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore and fellow Australian Sally Fitzgibbons were among the big names to safely progress straight to round three of the women's competition.

Both Gilmore and Fizgibbons finished second in their respective three-person heats.

Coco Ho, Caroline Marks, Paige Hareb, Carissa Moore, Keely Andrew, Courtney Conlogue, Brisa Hennessy, Lakey Peterson, and Malia Manuel were others to progress.

But Australian Nikki Van Dijk has been thrust into the elimination second round after finishing third in her opening heat.


AAP