"Well, we're surfing in New York…"
Those were the first words uttered to me on the windswept sand this morning after a delayed red-eye flight, and an hour long wait for a Taxi at JFK. To be honest, it was an underwhelming scene, especially considering the forecasted swell. Then again, it's Day 3 of the window period, it's New York, and it was very contestable, so a realist would say that the Quiksilver Pro New York is off to a flying start.
Truth be told, the surfing was incredible despite the conditions, especially from Josh Kerr who is increasingly showing that he is one of the few surfers capable of challenging Slater for this year's world title. He proved it last week in macking Tahiti and again today where he posted 4 of the top 6 wave scores of the first round. Witnessing his aerial shootout with Adriano de Souza today made the trip out to NYC worthwhile—and the swell hasn't even arrived yet.
Earlier, CJ Hobgood kept his world tour dreams alive by advancing in the final seconds of his heat. Hobgood, who needs a 5th place finish here to ensure a top 32 ranking ahead of the "shuffle" will bypass the second round and live to fight another day.
Kelly Slater breezed past wildcard Balaram Stack and Daniel Ross in his opening heat. The Quiksilver Pro, New York—complete with thousands of surf-starved fans and tons of media attention—is precisely the sort of platform that brings out the best in Slater. And after back-to-back victories in Huntington and Teahupoo, only a fool would bet against him to take the win at this event too.
On the opposite end of the competitive spectrum, Dane Reynolds pulled out of the event mid-way through Round 1 and single-handedly ruined my Fantasy Surfer team. But he did grace the commentary booth for a brief stint with Snowboard pro Todd Richards.
And finally, a note on the commentary: Todd Richards is great as a guest commentator, but when you have knowledgeable personalities traipsing the contest site—surfers that have competed at an elite level and understand the nuances of professional surfing—it couldn't hurt to pull them into the booth to anchor the broadcast and lend an air of credibility to the afternoon’s proceedings. This is, after all, a professional surfing event. And an important one at that.
Organizers will reconvene tomorrow to make a call on Round 2. With the swell forecast looking favorable for the rest of the week, an epic event could be in the books by Saturday.