And so the Mick, Taj, Kelly caravan journeys on to Brazil for the next installment of the Foster's ASP World Championship. With all three of them featuring in the major points at the Billabong Pro Mundaka, the race for World #1 continues. Mick posting yet another Top 3 finish was ominous, he bounced back from a drubbing at Trestles with a 1st & 3rd in the European leg, delivering destiny well and truly into the palm of his own hand.
The Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro has as its defending champion Mick Fanning, last year Mick was surfing the assortment of Brazilian beach breaks on offer like a zealot, just punishing every single wave with gouging lightning fast power moves. He was never going to lose that event. Admittedly, Kelly was on holidays, having just clinched his 8th Crown, and Taj hadn't made the shift to his new equipment, but if Mick turns up with anything resembling a magic board, it could be curtains for this year's race.
Between the three of them, Mick, Kelly and Taj have dominated this year's podium. They had to share the early spoils with Damien Hobgood and Andy Irons, but once their respective challenges trailed off, for contrasting reasons, the boys just took charge of center stage. Joel Parkinson loomed on the fringes of greatness all the way up to France, doggedly draughting the leaders but not quite joining them on the front grid this year. Great to see Bobby Martinez successfully defend his Billabong Pro Mundaka title, this prestigious event puts a very positive spin on what has been a lackluster season.
There has been such daylight between the Top 5 and the rest that guys have been able to come out of the clouds to claim the #6 ranking. Going into J/Bay Pancho Sullivan badly needed a result, he was flying a little too close to the sun for his liking. In the space of three events, punctuated by a brilliant run to the Boost Final at Lowers, Pancho zoomed up to #6, holding it down until Bobby soared into the Top 10 on the back of his Mundaka success.
Meanwhile, Mick Fanning's Rip Curl stable mate Stephanie Gilmore did her World Title chances the world of good with a stunning victory in the NAB Beachley Classic. The level of surfing in the final was superb, both Stephanie and Silvana Lima going flat chat on the shifty Sydney beachies, only a tenth of a point separating them at the buzzer. Steph and Silvana, courtesy of the bonus points on offer at the US$100,000 Classic, have established their own version of daylight with the rest of the field.
There are three events remaining, a brand new World Championship event in Peru and the two Hawaiian events at Sunset and Honolua, so it is way too early for World Title possibilities, however suffice to say this duo are cutting through the ranks like butter. The Women's ratings have fluctuated wildly, there has virtually been a new leader at each stop, but a pattern is now emerging that reflects the consistently excellent performances of Steph and Silvana.
Last year I was over at Honolua to witness the 7th coming of Layne Beachley, and a frenzy of ripping action to the side of the event caught my eye. While the drama of the World Title climax was absorbing theatre I must say I was most impressed by the surfing of two girls up the point a bit. It was a revelation, Steph and Silvana surfing unplugged, free of any competitive restraints, and just blasting huge rooster tails at will. This was the future. It certainly wasn't any cleverness on my part, anyone who was watching could not have been any less impressed.