Things happen fast in France. Take yesterday for example. Mick Lowe and Pancho Sullivan paddled out for their round 2 heat in three to four feet clean righthand zippers. Then, almost in synch with the starting hooter, a cruel and evil onshore westerly came roaring in; arriving uninvited and about five hours earlier than it should have, and completely obliterated the line-up.
After a breakfast of anchovies, olives and peppers, washed down with strong dark coffee I made it back to the comp, being held at Capbreton, just in time to see Josh Kerr launch and land one of the biggest airs I've seen on the WCT.
Two of the heaviest hitters on the tour were left trying to surf three-foot tricky onshore crud. Only the night before Mick had announced his forthcoming retirement from tour, and at the stage I'm pretty sure he wasn't having too many second thoughts. He lost the heat and next year the pro surfing ranks will be without one of the most fearless, powerful and genuinely affable blokes in the game.
So anyway, as I said, things were changing fast, and not just in Mick Lowe's world. The onshore ripped in, thick black clouds rumbled over the border from Spain and the hour by hour the surf started to build. By dark, the ocean was as angry as Mike Tyson on a steroids, rum and crack cocktail, with 15 foot monsters rouging all over the outside banks.
Down at Mundaka however, six-foot lines, roughed around the edges by a nor-west onshore were running down the famous rivermouth sandbank. I should know, I was down there, after gambling on a lucky change in wind for the next days mid morning low-tide session. My cunning thinking was to get down there, get a room and be fresh and nasty for the early surf. As far as plans, it was one of my better ones, which is why I set about punching holes in it with bucket loads of sangria and Spanish cigarettes, caught up in the sheer enthusiasm of some classic Mundaka locals.
As such, when I did paddle out about on dusk and caught up with Fanning, who'd bolted down at a sparrow's fart and, despite the three-hour pre dawn drive, looked about 75 years younger. He nailed about fives waves to my one, did about 25 hacks to my two and was out of the water before you could say asta la vista baby. That surf was indication of his mind set right now – all maximum focus, controlled ultra committed surfing, which I'm tipping will make him world champion.
I too got out and bolted back to France's surf city just as a six foot set, brushed by a light offshore, ran down the bank. It looked good, but the 60 strong crowd and lack of tubes was a cause for concern. The bank is nowhere in as good a shape as last year.
After a breakfast of anchovies, olives and peppers, washed down with strong dark coffee I made it back to the comp, being held at Capbreton, just in time to see Josh Kerr launch and land one of the biggest airs I've seen on the WCT. He's already pulled one sick alley-oop, and if the rest comp is held in four-foot onshore beachies, he has to be a contender.
The rest of the day saw fairly predictable results, with the possible exception of Bruce Iron's loss to Raoni Monteiro. Raoini ripped, but it defies belief how a freakily good a surfer as Bruce is can keep losing. I didn't hang around to ask him though, his disappointment and anger at a "dirty turd" pretty obvious.
Tomorrow should see a return to the heaving beachbreaks of Le Gravierre and a focus back on the world title race. Right now, I wouldn't rather be anywhere else in the world.
ASP PRESS RELEASE
The last nine heats of Round 2 of the Quiksilver Pro France were wrapped up at a mobile event site in nearby Capbreton today. The first six heats of Round 2 were run on Sunday at La Graviere, Heat 7 was run before conditions deteriorated yesterday, and the final eight heats were held in four to six foot (one to two metre) waves at a beachbreak known as Santosha this morning.
Jeremy Flores (FRA) beat Australian Shaun Cansdell in the first heat of the day. Flores admitted to having some local knowledge under his belt.
"I've been surfing this wave since I was 8-years-old, so I kind of know where the breaks are good," Flores said. "I think that Shaun might have stayed in the middle too much, but he still got some pretty good waves, he's a very talented surfer. He won the biggest WQS event here in Hossegor, so I knew it was going to be a very hard heat. I just went out there and thought about my heat and nothing else."
Flores, the only European surfer on the 2007 Foster's ASP World Tour, has had a beach full of expectations to exceed and is feeling the weight.
"I do feel a little bit of pressure surfing here, Flores said. "Everyone is expecting me to win, which is okay… I'm just trying to do my best. I've had a good year so far so it's just a bonus every heat after. Every heat I make I still feel like I'm learning. That's what I have to keep in my mind and not to get too nervous. It's exciting for me this whole experience, and to be here in front of my home crowd. I'd love to get a good result here to give back."
Josh Kerr's (AUS) result was the highest of Round 2. Kerr is famous for the aerial prowess he let fly today – his two huge aerial maneuvers heralded two huge scores, an 8.67 and 9.67.
"I did an alley-oop the wave before my 9.67 and the judges rewarded me with a good score," Kerr said. "I had had a slow heat before that wave. I knew they were my kind of conditions out there and I wanted to try and prove that. The next wave probably had the best ramp section I've had in a long time, I just tried to go huge and I pulled it so I'm stoked."
Raoni Monteiro (BRA) was another standout performer today. Monteiro was beating Bruce Irons (HAW) well before he sealed the deal with a 9.00 ride at the end of their heat.
"I was trying to focus that heat on catching a good wave," Monteiro said. "I had three good waves with three good scores. I got a 9.0 on my last wave so that really helped me. I feel really good right now because Bruce Irons is a really good surfer. It's really hard to beat those guys. I'm just really happy."
Kai Otton (AUS) eliminated Adriano de Souza (BRA) in the final heat of the round. Round 3 competition was called off just prior to Heat 16 of Round 2 paddling out.
"The contest director came up to me right before the heat and asked if I wanted to surf," Otton said. "It looked pretty bad and I wanted to surf over at La Graviere the next day, so I was thinking about calling it off. Adriano already had his rash guard on and wanted to go so I was like, 'we'll just do it'. Lucky enough I just got little one under priority and it was a pretty good score."
Otton is currently rated 18th, and is the second highest rated rookie after Flores who sits in 9th. Both are gunning for ASP 'Rookie of the Year' honors.
"That 'Rookie of the Year' title is one of my goals still," Otton said. Jeremy and I were pretty close but then he got away at Trestles so he put a bigger gap on us. I hope to just keep making heats and give myself a chance. Anything can happen going into Pipeline, so we'll just have to see what happens."
A call on Round 3 will be made at 8am at La Nord tomorrow. Heat 1 will feature Australians Joel Parkinson versus Mark Occhilupo.
Today's Quiksilver Pro France Round 2 Results:
Heat 8: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 14.00 def. Shaun Cansdell (AUS)
Heat 9: Greg Emslie (ZAF) 14.34 def. Tom Whitaker (AUS) 12.23
Heat 10: Bernardo Miranda (BRA) 14.67 def. Daniel Wills (AUS) 10.17
Heat 11: Troy Brooks (AUS) 15.16 def. Chris Ward (USA) 7.83
Heat 12: Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 17.00 def. Bruce Irons (HAW) 8.03
Heat 13: Josh Kerr (AUS) 18.34 Fred Pattachia (HAW) 10.23
Heat 14: Luke Stedman (AUS) 16.27 def. Michael Campbell (AUS) 14.93
Heat 15: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 11.40 def. Ben Dunn (AUS) 10.60
Heat 16: Kai Otton (AUS) 15.60 def. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 9.97
Upcoming Quiksilver Pro France Round 3 Match-Ups:
Heat 1: Joel Parkinson (AUS) vs. Mark Occhilupo (AUS)
Heat 2: Cory Lopez (USA) vs. Phillip Macdonald (AUS)
Heat 3: Adrian Buchan (AUS) vs. Royden Bryson (ZAF)
Heat 4: Taj Burrow (AUS) vs. Trent Munro (AUS)
Heat 5: Pancho Sullivan (HAW) vs. Victor Ribas (BRA)
Heat 6: Jeremy Flores (FRA) vs. Greg Emslie (ZAF)
Heat 7: Josh Kerr (AUS) vs. Raoni Monteiro (BRA)
Heat 8: Kelly Slater (USA) vs. Michel Bourrez (PYF)
Heat 9: Mick Fanning (AUS) vs. Mikael Picon (FRA)
Heat 10: Ricky Bassnett (ZAF) vs. Leonardo Neves (BRA)
Heat 11: Bobby Martinez (USA) vs. Neco Padaratz (BRA)
Heat 12: C.J. Hobgood (USA) vs. Bernardo Miranda (BRA)
Heat 13: Andy Irons (HAW) vs. Luke Munro (AUS)
Heat 14: Luke Stedman (AUS) vs. Rodrigo Dornelles (BRA)
Heat 15: Dean Morrison (AUS) vs. Dayyan Neve (AUS)
Heat 16: Kai Otton (AUS) vs. Troy Brooks (AUS)