First things first, I don’t usually write about the girls’ heats as my focus for Surfer lies solely on the men’s side of the competition. But today, as I laid on the sofa enjoying professional surfing live on Australia’s oneHD channel, I couldn’t help but be impressed, amazed, and just plain stoked to see the youth of women’s surfing destroying every wave they rode. From the veteran of the group Stephanie Gilmore (who only turned 23 a month ago) to Tyler Wright at only 16, you can plan on seeing an explosion of attention (both from the mainstream and within the industry) focusing on this group of young girls who are redefining what women’s competitive surfing is all about.
Back to the men’s and the very important Round 3 where the top seeds usually see their very first challenges of any event. With the tide yet to pull enough water off the bank at Snapper, Mick Fanning was forced to surf in much less favorable conditions than the surf on offer when he called the comp off yesterday before his heat was about to enter the water. Up against a much improved Dusty Payne, the heat came down to each surfer riding one quality wave with Dusty outscoring Mick 8.17 to 6.67. That heat likely signals big things for not only Dusty, but for the rest of the newer WT surfers who have been getting crushed by the top 10 over the last few years. The gap is rapidly closing between surfers at every stage of their careers as the level gets pushed higher and higher everyday.
The next major statement of the 2011 WT was made when Kelly Slater entered the water. I recently touched on the topic of Why Kelly and Dane Should Quit the Tour, the flip-side of that is the million reasons why both surfers should remain on tour. When Kelly first arrived on the scene over a week ago, everyone was in shock with the inhumanly shape the 39 year old athlete was in. During the last few years, more and more surfers have put their nose to the grind and made training a major priority. Yet still, no surfer can match Kelly’s level of fitness…or performance. In a leisurely stroll of the line-up today (disguised as a heat) Kelly surfed with more power, commitment, and speed than ever before. With Kelly still improving every year, there appears to be no reason for him to quit the tour until he at least reaches some sort of plateau in his surfing, which looks to still be many, many years away.
Kelly’s biggest challenger last year in the World Title race, and the only surfer capable of matching his power, surfed immediately after him. With an easy to make direct comparison between the two surfers, Jordy surfed his way to the highest heat total of the event, and it only took 5 minutes to accomplish this feat. Coming from opposite sides of the draw, a final between the two would be the best way to finish out the 2011 Quik Pro and either pass the World Title favorite title over to Jordy if he wins, or see Kelly make a statement to the world that he isn’t going anywhere as the world’s best surfer and also the world’s best athlete. Both titles he holds a firm grasp on at this moment in time.
The surf at Snapper this afternoon continued to hold its size while the direction kept swinging more favorably to the east. The heats that went down in the improved conditions saw Parko survive a dynamic backside performance by Kai Otton to remain in the draw with hopes of a third Snapper Rocks title still alive and the dream of a World Title very much a reality. Incredibly under-rated rookie Alejo Muniz shattered the goofy-foot-challenged Owen Wright in sizzling fashion as he calmly mixed up a variety of new and old school moves. In a dramatic finish to the day, Julian was left with no answer to Taj’s winning form he has been locked into for every heat on the Goldy the last month. Until Taj, with priority, allowed Julian to ride a flawless tube, receiving a heavily underscored 7.7 that at least brought him out of a combination situation needing a 7.41. The next ride was another beautifully ridden tube that he finished with flair and energy only to be underscored again with only a 6.1. Overall, both surfers destroyed two waves and it could have went either way, but when you are a rookie on the WT you better destroy the champ. And Taj Burrow may have never been the World Champ, but he has been a champion of the WT for over a decade. If today’s heat is any indication of the way things may unfold, Taj could well be on his way to getting the World Title he has been so close to attaining year after year.
After a slow start, this year’s Quik Pro is showing why Snapper Rocks is one of the “Best” stops on tour every year.
Click on the head shots below for heats on demand highlights.