"It seems like there is a lack of motivation from everyone on tour, people are going home, they're over it – it just feels like it is over with Kelly wrapping up the title." Taj Burrow
Morale usually hits rock bottom in Spain. It's the end of the longest stretch of continuous contests on tour, the weather is often cold and dismal, the clothes and wetsuits packed away have long started to stink and the waves are nothing to write home about. Adding to the misery for 44 out of the top 45, Kelly Slater is one heat away from a 9th world title.
How bad is it? So bad that Mick Fanning, who mathematically still has a shot at the thing, has gone home. For those who've remained, even guys with heads squarely on their shoulders have started to lose it. Mild mannered Bede Durbidge went for a wild moped ride in the Pyrenees a few days ago, crashed, bodysurfed the pavement, and was lucky to walk away with only a few scrapes.
For those teetering on the brink of sanity, the first look at the conditions at Sopelana Beach must have sent them right over the edge. The break was meant to better traditional backup venue Bakio – known as the worst wave on tour – but looked even worse on low tide today. Picture the world's best surfers (and a bunch of wildcards you've never heard of, with names you can't pronounce like Txaber Trojalo) drifting a mile out to sea in the midst of 2 foot dribbly windswell.
Oh well, back to the title, uh, race. Kelly Slater powered up the coast this morning from France, took a look at the waves, grabbed a four-fin and sat 500 yards away from Taylor Knox and Reuben Ash. Then he started looking like he was actually having fun, blasting little airs and banking off sections. Earning a ticket straight to Round 3, he'll likely get the day off tomorrow, then meet an oddly named wildcard and take the title.
Taj gamely paddled out next and ripped as well. He's just trying to win his first event of the year and can now look forward to the possibility of doing it at firing Mundaka. That's right, that wasn't a misprint. Firing Mundaka is on its way. The swell started showing late in the afternoon and Sopelana on the higher tide transformed in a chunky and powerful French style beach break. Guys struggling to requalify like Tom Whitaker, Daniel Ross, Miky Picon, Tiago Pires and Danny Wills sensed an opportunity to gain some ground here and won their heats.
Tomorrow, they'll get a chance to watch as the swell meets a morning low tide and, if all, goes to plan we'll see the first real waves for a contest here in years. The plan tomorrow is to run dual heat format for all Round 2 and maybe even part of Round 3. Think the guys are going to like it if Kelly wins the title while using a format he created? Could be the last straw.