With Snapper running the last few days in average conditions, I haven't exactly been at the edge of my seat. I have, however, been at the edge of a cliff wanting to jump off after a few of the heats I've watched. With Snapper looking more like the not-so-Superbank, heats are being won by either finding the odd tube behind the rock, or the even odder wave that walls up all the way through, resisting the urge to push wide and fat into deep water.
These challenging and hard-to-read waves contributed to some early surprises:
Wildcard guest Dane Reynolds completed several of the best moves of the event so far in his two heat losses. His early exit was a result of not riding the best waves and had nothing to do with talent.
Local two-time World Champion, Mick Fanning, chose to use his priority on a closeout and never had a quality wave break in his vicinity again. Mick suffered a loss to Miguel Pupo, which nobody saw coming.
Kolohe Andino popped off the lip in an inverted mess of fins and tail in every one of his heats. His close loss to World No. 5 Adriano de Souza may as well have been decided by a coin toss. And if the judges already deemed him inferior to Adriano, then Kolohe's rookie year may be a little rockier than expected.
John John was superb on the waves he rode through the first three rounds. Losing to Ace was a simple case of your competitor riding far superior waves that allowed for average maneuvers to rack up excellent points.
The pattern I've seen forming in the judging thus far goes something like this: Big moves and sick tubes will score high, but if you find that clean runner that walls up all the way through, you can pretty much guarantee yourself a spot in the next round. Case in point, Owen vs. Wilko: Owen rode bigger waves with more clean snaps in the pocket. Wilko got tweaky in the lip on his fish, but didn't have the quality, or even the look of drive and power that Owen displayed. The classier, more professional Owen is going to win that heat 9 times out of 10 when compared to Wilko's choppy turns and awkward recoveries.
This approach by the judges should put the top class of the event—Kelly, Parko, Taj, Jordy—in a strong position for victory if Snapper continues to produce, and improve. If the event finishes up at Duranbah, then everything changes.