Today, Tomorrow

Kelly and John John fall in Round 5 as the swell builds into the final day at Keramas

Joel Parkinson, on his way to earning the second perfect heat score of his career. Photo: Childs

Well, the PA was certainly working this morning. Yesterday's silent debacle was long forgotten as today Adi had his shit together. The dawn serenity at Keramas was being exsanguinated by the guitar solo from Metallica's "One", sawing the heads of all present at 110dB. It also seemed to be flattening the surf, a pure heavy metal offshore, as the 6-foot sets of twilight yesterday were replaced this morning by weak, chest-high peelers. We sat and watched Mick Fanning surf it for half an hour with meager returns, and what had been forecast and billed as a certain day of quality surf seemed to be a complete and utter hoax. With only 12 guys left in the event, there seemed little chance they'd be thrown out there in waves best described as "cute." CJ Hobgood, who'd just shown up, was a little more optimistic. "It'll do its thing," he drawled, waving a dismissive hand at the lineup. "Just wait."

The Lombok Strait, which funnels the swell up at Keramas, is so deep that during the last Ice Age when water levels were so low that Indonesia was basically just two islands instead of 13,000, it divided the islands and their critters, resulting in monkeys to the west and tree kangaroos to the east. The Strait also makes predicting the landfall of swells on Bali's eastside a little flukey, as we were finding out today.

We didn't have to wait long for the swell to emerge from the abyss, however, and the transformation in the place was radical. Mick Fanning was drying off when the first real set hit--10 waves, 4-foot plus wrapping up the coast, all of them piping down the length of the Keramas reef. Mick's phone binged. "See, it's Huey. He said, 'I told you so." We turn around to see Adriano get the last wave of the set and get barfed out into the channel, way down the point. "Adriano got six waves out of that set," laughed Mick. Within half an hour it didn't just look like a different day, or even a different break, it looked like a different planet. When John John took off on a set wave that was nudging 6 foot, dropped to the bottom and coiled, three guys watching on simultaneously uttered, "Uh oh." Wonderboy fluffed the turn however, prompting Mick's shaper Darren Handley to shout across the deck, "That was his shaper's fault." Jon Pyzel, John's shaper, turned with a wry grin.

You all saw what happened out there today. It got good. Really good at times. But rather than dissect the minutiae of it, let's have a look at today in terms of tomorrow. Today, tomorrow. Hari ini, hari besok. In all likelihood tomorrow will see the contest wrapped. It's been flagged as the best day of the waiting period for almost a week now, building through the day with conditions similar to today's. We have seven heats to run with the luxury of being able to stick and move between the tides and the wind and the whims of the guys surfing, which are far more unpredictable than the former. We'll have a Keramas champion by this time tomorrow...but it won't be Jordy, Kelly, or John John.

Although this was one of the best turns of his heat, Slater was unable to link enough solid moves together to take down CJ Hobgood. Photo: Lowe-White

We charted Jordy's demise yesterday, but the exits of Kelly and John John today were clinically executed. John John fell to the experience of Joel Parkinson in the Keramas lineup, while Kelly's loss to CJ came down to bad concert with a perfectly played strategy by CJ. The heat between the Floridians was the first heat of the day not to barrel, and this played sweetly into CJ's hands. Ceej has been around the yard a couple of times, 14 years or so, and it's not often you see a Kelly gameplan dismantled but that's what happened today. Kelly's Plan B, C, or even D are almost always better than the other guy's Plan A, but not today, and the absence of Kelly, John John, and Jordy from the last eight really opens things up tomorrow.

Parko had a day at the races, but his second career perfect heat was today almost not enough. Joel has already lost a heat this year with a 10 and a 9.1--against Raoni at Bells--and so even after his first 10 he was on eggshells, present company considered. John John's first stand-tall tube just sung a song of Backdoor Pipe, and teamed with the threat of whatever the hell he was capable of above the lip made for nervous minutes for Joel. The forehand flip John John almost landed late in the heat would have forced the judges into another 10, and made his groundbreaking Round 1 alley oop as old as yesterday's newspaper.

"He's such cool kid to surf heats with though," Joel offered later. "It feels like a surf movie. We both kinda couldn't believe how good the waves were in our heat. It was one of those heats where you wanted to catch every wave because they were so good. The barrel out there isn't the squarest or thickest barrel you've ever surfed--that might come tomorrow when it gets a bit bigger and it starts to do its Backdoor thing--but it just keeps drawing you down the line and it's just a beautiful wave to ride." While Joel wasn't feeling his first 10--"I think the scale might have been a bit high early"--there was little doubt about the second. "I knew," he offered curtly. John John lost with a near career-high total (just as Seabass had done in the first round losing to him), but again today John John showed that he is the future of pro surfing and probably the most important surfer on Tour, not only for his ability to bring the people with him, but for his ability to bring his peers along for the ride as well. Joel now draws Taj in the first quarter. Taj snuck through this morning in the dying seconds, but carries more water time at Keramas than anyone left in the field and could remain relatively unnoticed in this contest...right up until the point where he's holding the trophy.

The other standout today was Josh Kerr. As he walked up the beach after the heat of his short life I'd asked him, "What just happened? I don't understand." He replied, "I got no idea either!" Kerrsy caught five waves in his heat--an 8.67, 9.17, 9.5, 9.67...and the 10, the first of his career. Kerrsy's ability under the lip is oft overlooked for his talents above, but today it was there on show for all. He's a phenomenal tuberider, built low to the ground, honed on Snapper and Cudgen, but if the wind swings onshore early tomorrow he's probably the most equipped of anyone left in the field to deal with it. On that count he almost goes into the final day as the favorite. He's due, and it'd be a healthy sign for pro surfing if he were to crack a maiden win here at Keramas. But of the remaining guys, Mick Fanning and Michel Bourez look most likely. This event will be won in the tube and both are willing and able there. The Spartan, if he were to crack a win, would be a win in itself for pro surfing: the lone Tahitian on tour connecting the juggernaut of Surfing Now with the faint traces of it's Polynesian heritage. That, and he's just about the most likeable guy on Tour.

The imperative tomorrow morning will be to run early. The lowish tide in concert with the building swell could produce the "Backdoor Effect". This wave with size is quite a sight. Be there. Sampai jumpa besok.

CJ Hobgood, looking razor sharp on his backhand. Photo: Childs

Josh Kerr, enjoying the best heat of his life with back-to-back-to-back wave scores in the excellent range. Photo: Lowe-White

John John Florence, attempting something that would have made his previous 10-point air look like child's play. Photo: Childs

Michel Bourez has had nothing but momentum throughout the event thus far, which has now seen him earn a spot in the quarterfinals. Photo: Lowe-White