BAKIO BREAKDOWN Taj Triumpsh and Andy Abdicates

After almost a week’s worth of waiting, round two of the Billabong Pro finally took to the water today, and unfortunately for a couple of big-name top seeds, in good Basque fashion, the wildcards staged a bit of an uprising. Using all the down days to fine-tune their act, in the most unlikely of upsets, in only the second heat of the morning local boy Hodei Collazo upended Andy Irons in the tricky 3-foot conditions. But if you'd been paying much attention, that really shouldn't come as a huge surprise. Seeing as the swell wasn't big enough to make Mundaka smile, the contest site was moved a few clicks up the coast to the beachbreak of Bakio, where by happenstance Collazo keeps a flat right on the beach. And with the tide bottoming out just prior to their heat, the waves were walled and for all intents and purposes, closed out. Wave quality being what it was, whoever was able to find the rare open corner and put a turn or two together held a distinct advantage. And while there's little question that if the heat had been held in the draining left-hand tubes that Mundaka is famous for, Irons would have been able to pigdog his way to an easy win. Putting his local knowledge to good use, Collazo made the most of his waves and slipped through a low-scoring affair.
Next on the hit list was Pancho Sullivan, who sat a lofty sixth in the World Tour rankings before the second half of the European leg. Drawing Portugal's Tiago Pires, who's already garnered an invitation to the big dance next year thanks to an outstanding showing on the WQS. The big-framed Hawaiian's momentum finally ran out against the smaller, lighter Pires, who put together one of the best heats of the entire event thus far.

And if you were wondering about world title implications, don't stress—the race is still on. After France the only two people that even stand a remote chance of catching Mick Fanning are Taj Burrow and Kelly Slater. Slater sailed through his round one heat earlier in the event's waiting period, very much in form, and very much looking like he may still have a card or two up his sleeve. But in what's becoming an unsettling trend for the Western Australian, once again Burrow found himself relegated to round two. He hasn't made staying in the hunt easy for himself this year. So far he's lost all but one of his round one heats and has had to surf through every heat of every contest, which really is a testament to both his determination and his ability. Surfing in the first heat of the morning, once again Burrow proved himself a fighter, dissecting the fickle conditions and living to fight another day.

Other than that, as the day wore on the Brazilian contingent had an absolute field day. Victor Ribas took out Bruce Irons, Rodrigo Dornelles eliminated Cory Lopez, and Neco Padaratz, Bernardo Miranda and Leonardo Neves all made it through their heats as well. But what did we expect? Three-foot Bakio was bearing a striking resemblance to the waves they all grew up surfing.

Also worthy of noting was Gabe Kling's breakthrough. The poor guy's had a shocker of a freshman campaign, and after posting the highest heat score of the event thus far, it was good to see him snap out of his funk. Timmy Reyes has returned to competition, and while he didn't prove to be much of a threat to anyone, he's finally back in the water, and that's a big step forward. After destroying his knee at the end of last year, he's almost a lock for the injury wildcard in 2008, and in his heat against Taylor Knox, who by the way is surfing better than ever, Reyes seemed to be just taking his reconstructed knee for a test run, feeling it out and trying to get back into a competitive mindset.

For now it's looking like the forecast is a bit on the bleak side, and chances of this contest actually taking to the Mundaka lineup are looking slim. There may be a new swell coming at the very end of the waiting period, but it's still a little too far out to tell exactly what it's going to do. There are two full days of competition left, and while everybody would like to see this thing wrap up in kegging conditions, it's kind of entertaining to watch the best surfers in the world deal with the same kind of crappy closeouts that the average human has to surf in most days. Then again, the next stop is Brazil and we're sure to see plenty of that there. And on second thought, it would probably be a lot more fun to watch them pulling in and come flying out 100-yards down the line, but then that's not up to anybody but the ocean, and thus far it's hardly cooperated.

Heat 1: Taj Burrow def. Manoa Drollet (PYF) 2.74
Heat 2: Hodei Collazo (EUK) 9.83 def. Andy Irons (HAW) 8.23
Heat 3: Tiago Pires (PRT) 14.67 def. Pancho Sullivan (HAW) 10.00
Heat 4: Gabe Kling (USA) 16.77 def. Dean Morrison (AUS) 11.10
Heat 5: Taylor Knox (USA) 14.84 def. Tim Reyes (USA) 4.60
Heat 6: Tom Whitaker (AUS) 12.93 def. Mark Occhilupo (AUS) 6.67
Heat 7: Luke Munro (AUS) 13.77 def. Daniel Wills (AUS) 12.00
Heat 8: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 14.17 def. Michael Lowe (AUS) 10.64
Heat 9: Shaun Cansdell (AUS) 14.67 def. Chris Ward (USA) 11.17
Heat 10: Victor Ribas (BRA) 12.00 def. Bruce Irons (HAW) 11.94
Heat 11: Neco Padaratz (BRA) 13.20 def. Kai Otton (AUS) 11.67
Heat 12: Leonardo Neves (BRA) 13.50 def. Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 8.60
Heat 13: Bernardo Miranda (BRA) 13.84 def. Ben Dunn (AUS) 11.74
Heat 14: Rodrigo Dornelles (BRA) 13.27 def. Cory Lopez (USA) 7.26
Heat 15: Greg Emslie (ZAF) 11.13 def. Troy Brooks (AUS) 10.50
Heat 16: Ricky Basnett (ZAF) 12.77 def. Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 12.33