Doing a lap of Coolangatta in Rabbit Bartholomew's car at dawn this morning, we were far from optimistic about the prospects for the day ahead. I was sitting knee-deep in newspapers and coffee cups in the passenger seat as we pulled up in the car park overlooking D-Bah, much as Bugs does every day he's home.
"Hmmm," humbahed Bugs, "this isn't a good sign. D-Bah's such a south swell magnet, and if it's not getting in here we're in a bit of trouble." It was three foot and uninspiring, far from the expected six foot of super-south swell that was forecast to light up Kirra today. But all the talk between us is of the juicy round three draw for the day. The conversation then briefly drifts onto a photo of Rabbit surfing nude in 1976 Tracks mag has recently re-run. "Y'know, if the Tracks archives were destroyed I could finally run for mayor," Rabbit cackles.
Over the hill at Snapper we run into Parko, who was on the hill overlooking the break with his old man, Brian, timing the sets. "Twelve minutes" spat Joel disdainfully, "that's two sets per heat." The swell that's been forecast and talked up over the past few days has never looked like showing up, and Snapper was looking lazy at best, unrunnable at worst. But run it did, and it turns out we soon forgot about the waves as the swell filled in as the day went on, and the playful green runners became simply background players to the surfing. The whole day became a classic case of one-upmanship between the main contenders – a pissing contest of the highest order.
It's strange to think of Bede Durbidge, the understated North Stradbroke Islander, as a world title shot, but few who watched the first heat of the day would doubt that he's capable of something this year. Mick's pegged Bede as a fair dinkum challenger ("a genuine challenger" in the Aussie vernacular), and Bede has grown into a real presence. nowhere was that clearer than in his stomping of Kieren Perrow in the first heat of the day. The White Fijian could tighten up his fifth place 2007 finish.
Parko's demeanour after winning his heat against Roy Powers was a little more upbeat than it was at 6am that morning. He's has been super underground the past couple of weeks and has barely been sighted between heats, employing a little bit of '07 Fanning strategy. His usual happy-go-lucky goofiness has also been toned down, and it's clear he's taking this whole thing pretty seriously.
Dean Morrison is tough to beat out here, as Dane Reynolds discovered. Deano has a relationship with Snapper that borders on the metaphysical. He will often wait on the jump-off rock, not looking for a gap between the sets before jumping off like everyone else, but actually waiting for the sets to appear, before quickly jumping off and sprint paddling into the perfect take-off spot 15 seconds later. You know he's gonna find the best waves regardless of what happens, and today that proved the difference. Dingo hunted down two eights with the same efficiency he always shows out here. But while Dingo had two complete waves all the way down the point, Dane had one turn, but it was the best turn the tour might see this year – a huge layback under-the-lip speed turn that earned an eight on its own. Dane lost, but left the water with the same smile that's been spread across his face all week.