Surf: Three foot very semi-Superbank, clean
Events Held: Quiksilver Pro round three heats 11-16, round four heats 1-2
Nature's Call: OK, you guys, now you're pushing your luck
Predicted: You DO realize Corona is an associate sponsor of this event?
Fatherhood's a big thing in pro surfing these days. Dads of pros are almost as common as they are at the golf. Patrick Flores, father of Jeremy, strolls around the Quik Pro event site fresh from his New Caledonia surf camp. Graham Smith, father of Jordy, holds court in the competitors' restricted zone like he's been there all his life.
By way of contrast, Brian Parkinson stood down on the sand today among the crowd, looking very anonymous. A few years back, Brian, father of Joel, was at the forefront of the Dads Of Pros movement. These days you get the feeling that perhaps the initial glamour has worn off a bit. "Yeah, the surf's been good," Brian, a builder by trade, told SURFING. "But it's been raining every bloody day. How'd you ever get any work done?"
Guess it depends what the work is. Meanwhile, before us waltzed a more or less retired eight-time world champion at play.
Lots of people are trying to second guess Kelly Slater's intentions for 2008. Let us be the first to make it clear: Kelly's over it, dude. No will-he-or-won't-he stuff going on there. No pre-world-title rope a dope. He's too happy. He doesn't need or want another 12 months of waiting for swells that barely show at the same event sites he's visited for 16 years. After he and AI had won their heats today, the pair ended up hanging out together for quite a while, laughing and talking shit. (And indeed, too, something is distinctly different about Andy's very presence this year – the explosive surfing is there, but otherwise he radiates something awfully close to adulthood.) Sherm got a great photo of 'em, by the way; I'm sure it'll be posted here soon, if it isn't already. It shows a couple of blokes whose epic rivalry is beginning to mellow into something cooler – like acid washing off a gold coin to reveal the precious metal of respect.
When Kelly's in this mood, he surfs heats mainly to entertain himself, which he did today at the cost of the quick Brazilian goofy Heitor Alves. Watching Heitor go down in this heat, and recalling the six thousand waves he rode in last night's post-event session, your correspondent was suddenly aware of a classic Brazilian pro-surfer weakness – their free-surfs. They're too frantic, too omnivorous, too ferociously intent on catching every wave; they never practice heat rhythms, never sit and focus in on the sets. Thus, in a heat, stopping long enough to find the right set waves tends to fluster them.
Slow it down, boys. Not only will you no longer drive every other surfer in the water insane – you'll win more heats into the bargain.
Heitor brings to mind another thing: man, who'd be a goofyfoot at this contest?! We can't think of another tour event that so comprehensively rips the carpet out from under the screwfoots. Once, back in the Dark Ages, going backside at a right point was actually an advantage. Now, with 270 degree frontside top turn slides being a commonplace, the situation is perfectly reversed – "reverse" being the most just.
Thus here we are, not even into the quarters, and all the goofs are gone. All except short fast Ace Buchan and tall lanky Kai Otton. Kai, with Ace not far behind, is undoubtedly the most dangerous underrated pro surfer on tour right now. Sure enough, Kai has a Dad-of-Pro present: father Greg, an old school ab diver and NSW south coast reef surfer who taught his kid toŠno, not to cut back, but to meditate. "Kai sees a lot of things that some of the other guys don't," he told SURFING a couple of days ago. Well, Kai saw the backside line today where no-one else could.
And speaking of flustered, just that almost happened to Brian Parkinson's son today. As the tide began to rise this arvo, the surfers were asked on a heat-by-heat basis if they wanted to go ahead. Joel, up against Taylor Knox, decided he did. "I knew it was filling up," he said, "but I thought there might just be one or two more pulses left in it; and that'd be in my favor." Well, cunning ol' Tay came round behind the Snapper rock right at the opening stanza and got one of those pulses from clean under Joel's guard. Parko was left to fume and do what Heitor couldn't manage – wait. Then come up with the score.
Joel now faces Bede Durbidge – Bede still, inconceivably, flying under the radar, while he destroys wave after wave on the same board that earned him second here last year. Yet that's the only quarterfinal drawn so far. After four days of men's competition, there's 13 heats left at Snapper, and it's beginning to feel just a little like a struggle. The beer, the sun, the Cooly party schedule, the small waves teasing everyone day after day; this contest really will come down to who wants it most.
Nick's Call: Taj will win the Quiksilver Pro
Like we said: top half's packing. It'll be the death of 'em.
The Coolie Kids are gonna have to kill each other to make the final, that is if they can get past Bede and Jordy. I'd pick one, but between Mick and Parko, I'd be wrong no matter who I picked.
One of those two will make the final and go down screaming to Taj Burrow in an unlikely finish after a horrid Taj-AI semi. And Rainbow Bay Surf Club will vanish under a rain of beer.