MARGARET RIVER, Western Australia (Thursday April 7 2011) – Huge four-to-five metre waves pounded the main break at the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) PRIME Telstra Drug Aware Pro at Margaret River today and storm squalls pelted the event site.
All competitors scrambled for longer equipment and an advantage in the testing conditions, everyone except Kelly Slater (USA). He chose to ride the smallest board he could find, measuring a mere five-foot nine inches long, (5'9"), Slater's board is identical to what he would ride in the playful conditions of his home-break in Florida.
"When I was paddling out I was thinking I should have taken out an 8 footer," said Slater. "But when I had to duckdive a bomb set I was glad I had a small board I could push way down."
Against the odds, and elements, Slater got busy in the 30 minute clash. The 39 year-old master quickly secured two good scoring waves to pl ace him comfortably ahead of his nearest opponent, Masatoshi Ohno (JAP) of Japan.
"I was having a ball out there, I was laughing the whole time!" said a clearly stoked Slater.
Eliminated behind Slater and Ohno were Matt Wilkinson (AUS) of Australia and Pablo Paulino (BRA) of Brazil.
Current world number 2 and local, Taj Burrow (AUS) was another to impress in the wild conditions. The former winner survived the Margaret River washing machine to progress comfortably behind fellow Aussie, Kai Otton (AUS).
"It's wild and wooley," said Taj. "Lots of big lumps. The conditions might favour the locals a little bit, but everyone cops a beating out there, no matter who you are."
Boards were broken, bodies were bruised, but it was a great day of surfing and it showed on the competitors faces. After winning his round of 96 heat in the morning Joel Parkinson (AUS) was counting down the minutes until his next heat in the aft ernoon.
"It's hard out there. You think you're sitting in the right spot then a wave breaks 30 foot further out or 30 foot further in. But I can't complain, I had a fun – It's good to surf some bigger waves. I can't wait to get back out there" said Joel Parkinson who was also super impressive winning his early heat of the day.
Others to impress today included USA pair Pat Gudauskas who advanced despite an interference call, Damien Hobgood and Mick Fanning who clearly enjoys surfing Margaret River.
Local surfer Yadin Nichol won his heat but not so fortunate was talented local youngster Creed McTaggart who was eliminated.
The biggest upset also occured late with defending Telstra Drug Aware champ Josh Kerr eliiminated from the event.
The second last heat of the day was the most stacked with Taj Burrow, Joel Parkinson , Luke Stedman and Raoni Monterio clashing. As expected Taj and Joel controlled the heat from start to finish to advance.
The huge swell is expected to hold overnight with winds forecasted to swing favourably to the south so tomorrow should serve up quality and solid surf for the world's best!
Spectator entry to the Telstra Drug Aware Pro is free. For more information, visit www.telstradrugawarepro.com