Today, with somewhat mixed emotions, the first day of the Rip Curl Search WCT Reunion Island got underway in playful 3- to 4-foot St. Leu. I say mixed emotions because as the World Tour nears the halfway point of the season the wear and tear is starting to catch up with some surfers, seven of which were forced to bow out of this event.
Damien Hobgood is still nursing a blown-out shoulder he suffered in Tahiti, C.J. Hobgood opted out to stay home with his wife as she gave birth to their first child (A heartfelt congratulation to the Hobgood family), Chris Ward is suffering a tweaked ankle, Tim Curran made it to Paris on his way to Reunion, but was knocked down by flu-like symptoms and returned home, poor Shea Lopez re-injured the same knee he just spent 14 months rehabbing, Toby Martin's nursing a bad shoulder, Dean Morrison has a wrenched back and Sunny Garcia couldn't make it due to personal reasons (or could it be that it's pretty damn hard to go right at St. Leu). That's a total of eight out of the Top 44 out of this event (the record is nine, set a couple years back at the Pipe Masters). So what does this mean? It means that there are some pretty stoked locals on Reunion right now. The hero of the Trials, at least in the eyes of the people of Reunion, was local boy David Grainville who took second in the Trials and advanced to the Main Event. It also means that there will be a little more international flavor in the draw, as Spain's Pablo Gutierrez won the Trials, and Australia's Travis Lynch and Mauritius' Abdel El Harim rounded out the top four finalists, all of which advanced into the Main Event due to the number of no-shows.
With the Trials complete it's time for the big boys to step up to the plate. "This wave is so rippable, there are so many different combinations you can put together out there that this should be really interesting," remarked reigning World Champion Andy Irons. This could be the turning point in Andy's season, which thus far has been relatively mediocre by his standards. Consummate enigma Tom Curren, who's been surfing exceptionally sharp as of late, received a wildcard birth into the event. But all eyes are currently on Mr. Kelly Slater, who will be vying for his third consecutive win after to of the most dominant performances in pro surfing history.
The forecast is calling for a hefty 8- to 10-foot south swell to fill in later in the week, it looks like the contest may wrap up by Monday, so fire up the web broadcast, strap yourself in, and get ready for one hell of a ride because Reunion is coming alive.