It promised plenty… and while the surf delivered little, the surfing delivered a lot. Opening day of the 2008 ASP Dream Tour went down in some less than dreamy conditions at Coolangatta's Duranbah, which, considering the whole Gold Coast has been firing for the past week, seemed a little less than appropriate. But, in the end, it mattered little, as for once at the Quiksilver Pro, the surfing – and not the surf – took centre stage. So with the new season only eight hours old, and with nine months on the clock still to run, your correspondent has gone out on a limb, gazing into the crystal ball at how this season may play out, based on some lazy observations throughout a single day.
Can Mick Fanning defend his title?
Betcha. As the great MR, a half-decent authority on backing up world titles said the other night, "The stuff that it takes to win a title, physically and emotionally, you don't just forget that stuff." Mick has been keeping low key in the build-up to the start of his title defence, escaping the pre-Goldy hype by bailing to Bali with Taylor Steele a few weeks back. Mick didn't set the world on fire with his win today, but he didn't need to. He went the whole of last year without losing a first round heat, and didn't look like losing today, surfing quick, surfing sharp, surfing smart. He'll be there or thereabouts at year's end.
Will Joel be a contender?
Looking across at Parko at the ASP banquet the other night, watching his eyes glaze over as Mick made his world title speech, you could see he was having a bit of trouble enjoying the moment. Joel tipped his beer to his mate when Mick acknowledged the part Joel has played in helping him get his hands on the silverware, but you could also sense it was a bittersweet moment for Parko. Joel's also been pretty underground this week, emerging for some quality time behind the rock at Snapper, but also knocking back interviews, and spending time with his ever-expanding tribe. There's an air of secrecy about what Joel's up to and how he feels about the new season. Sound familiar?
Will Kelly retire?
Yes. When we say "retire", it might be more Cocoon and less On Golden Pond. After a last minute win today over Brazilian Rodrigo Dornelles, Kelly was straight up when saying that he was going to compete selectively on the tour this year, basing his decisions solely on swell forecasts, catch-ups with old friends, and the likelihood of him getting barrelled. He still drew the hugest crowd-scrum today, a thousand punters trying to get a piece of the champ, but, after what unfolded in the other 15 heats, you also get the feeling the tour seems capable of moving on without Kelly's phenomenal presence propping it up.
Will Taj need silver polish come year's end?
Unlikely. TB is in good nick, possibly the best shape this correspondent has ever seen him in. Seeing him stretch up the other morning before a freesurf at D-Bah with his trainer, "Bra Boy" Johnny Gannon, it was more exercise than I'd seen Taj do in three years put together. But it was TB's first turn of the new season that said it all. A full-blown, top-to-bottom inverted reverse. He didn't stick it – it was so stupidly committed that he didn't really stand a chance – but Taj continued to surf the heat with a radical abandon that demonstrated that he knows it's going to be all or nothing this year… and thankfully, it looks like he's running with "all".
Is Andy back?
The eight ball says yes… but Andy almost never made it to D-Bah today. With the swell at its peak a few days ago, Andy had tried to paddle out at Snapper via the rocky little backbeach called Froggies. Ten minutes of furious paddling and rock scrambling later, Andy clambered up the sharp volcanic rocks, minus a half acre of skin, and lucky to be in one piece. Pancho would suffer the same fate the next day. But it wasn't the fact that Andy actually lost his round one heat today that hinted the fire might be back… it was the way he took the loss. His heat was reduced to a man-on-man affair with Miky Picon after Freddy Patacchia's ankle injury failed to improve, and Andy never got a sniff of the lead. D-Bah is one of those breaks where you look up and down the beach either side of you, and it always looks better than where you're sitting. Andy had one of those days, and simply could not buy a wave. When the contest was called on in the morning, there'd been a bit of a brouhaha as to whether it should go. D-Bah was two-to-three foot and being swallowed by the high tide. But with the prospect of new swell looking ominously skinny, the decision was made to run. After Andy's loss, he came in, threw his rashie, and cursed in Kauaian something about how the thing should never have run in the first place. The last time Andy did this on a regular basis, he won the world title.
Should we believe the Dane and Jordy hype?
The final question is the biggest, and the answer simply, is, you f**ken better believe it. The pair have ceased to exist as individuals in the lead-up to the new season, fused together into a single entity, a surfing wrecking ball set to reduce the pro surfing status quo into unrecognisable rubble. Okay, before we get too far into it, Dane and Jordy both lost today. Surfing back-to-back in the last two heats of the day, Dane went down to unheralded Luke Munro, while Jordy got stitched up by Luke Stedman… both Lukes possibly surfing the best heats of their lives. But neither the vanquished Dane or Jordy disappointed. Dane's first Dream Tour turn was straight off the Young Guns 3 DVD slick – that huge inverted grabrail reverse, big and unmakeable, even for him. He's surely been lying awake at night thinking about that turn for quite a while. Dane eventually lost with a nine and a 7.2, scores that would have won him every other heat today. But more than that, it was the way he surfed the heat. He'd nail two huge turns, and instead of a safety-first reo to finish for an eight, he'd go an upside-down under-the-lip reverse for a 10, only to blow it. He couldn't help himself, and it was beautiful to watch. Jordy also looked frighteningly good, but chose to surf a bank that simply stopped breaking and got run down in the end. Dane came out of the water smiling, signing autographs, and was at his laconic best when interviewed soon after. "I just try and pretend the whole circus isn't here and try and do my own thing. That's the only way I'm ever gonna be able to perform around here." The effect this pair will have on the tour was clearly there to be seen today, but it's not as many pundits might have imagined. They're not going to blast these old bastards into retirement, it looks like they're gonna bring 'em along for the ride.
COMPLETE ROUND 1 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Bobby Martinez (USA) 12.93, Royden Bryson (ZAF) 10.67, Jihad Khodr (BRA) 10.33
Heat 2: Dean Morrison (AUS) 15.17, Kier
en Perrow (AUS) 13.00, Daniel Wills (AUS) 9.10
Heat 3: Bruce Irons (HAW) 14.00, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 11.84, Roy Powers (HAW) 7.63
Heat 4: Heitor Alves (BRA) 15.84, Pancho Sullivan (HAW) 13.40, Ricky Basnett (ZAF) 9.60
Heat 5: Mikael Picon (FRA) 12.50, Andy Irons (HAW) 11.50, Frederick Patacchia (HAW) N/A
Heat 6: Bede Durbidge (AUS) 16.83, Leonardo Neves (BRA) 14.56, Daniel Ross (AUS) 10.03
Heat 7: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 15.10, Neco Padaratz (BRA) 14.00, Nic Muscroft (AUS) 12.80
Heat 8: Mick Fanning (AUS) 15.24, Michael Campbell (AUS) 10.83, Tamaroa McComb (PYF) 9.40
Heat 9: Taj Burrow (AUS) 16.50, Adrian Buchan (AUS) 16.10, Julian Wilson (AUS) 10.50
Heat 10: Kelly Slater (USA) 14.17, Rodrigo Dornelles (BRA) 13.60, Michel Bourez (PYF) 12.47
Heat 11: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 13.67, Ben Bourgeois (USA) 8.83, C.J. Hobgood (USA) 8.76
Heat 12: Kai Otton (AUS) 14.83, Travis Logie (ZAF) 12.84, Aritz Aranburu (EUK) 9.63
Heat 13: Dayyan Neve (AUS) 16.17, Tom Whitaker (AUS) 12.07, Tiago Pires (PRT) 11.83
Heat 14: Taylor Knox (USA) 15.33, Ben Dunn (AUS) 13.56, Jay Thompson (AUS) 13.17
Heat 15: Luke Munro (AUS) 17.50, Dane Reynolds (USA) 16.20, Damien Hobgood (USA) 8.83
Heat 16: Luke Stedman (AUS) 14.66, Tim Reyes (USA) 13.16, Jordy Smith (ZAF) 11.17
UPCOMING ROUND 2 HEATS:
Heat 1: Andy Irons (HAW) vs. Tamaroa McComb (PYF)
Heat 2: Pancho Sullivan (HAW) vs. Julian Wilson
Heat 3: Jeremy Flores (FRA) vs. Michel Bourez
Heat 4: C.J. Hobgood (USA) vs. Nic Muscroft (AUS)
Heat 5: Tom Whitaker (AUS) vs. Daniel Ross (AUS)
Heat 6: Damien Hobgood (USA) vs. Roy Powers (HAW)
Heat 7: Michael Campbell (AUS) vs. Kieren Perrow (AUS)
Heat 8: Adrian Buchan (AUS) vs. Jihad Khodr (BRA)
Heat 9: Rodrigo Dornelles (BRA) vs. Ben Bourgeois (USA)
Heat 10: Neco Padaratz (BRA) vs. Aritz Aranburu (EUK)
Heat 11: Leonardo Neves (BRA) vs. Tiago Pires (PRT)
Heat 12: Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) vs. Jay Thompson (AUS)
Heat 13: Ricky Basnett (ZAF) vs. Dane Reynolds (USA)
Heat 14: Daniel Wills (AUS) vs. Jordy Smith (ZAF)
Heat 15: Royden Bryson (ZAF) vs. Tim Reyes (USA)
Heat 16: Travis Logie (ZAF) vs. Ben Dunn (AUS)