What happened today at the Quiksilver Pro clearly illustrated why we tune in to these events. Despite all predictions, it's impossible to say who will emerge the victor in such a stacked field. The early morning three man heats in Round 4 saw all of the top seeds unable to take the win, instead relegating them to an ultra-competitive round 5.
When Taj and Adriano hit the water at dead-low tide snapper, everyone on the beach expected a great heat, and Adriano put on a performance for the ages. Depending on how heavily you score the tube portion of a ride at Snapper - of which Adriano got two unbelievable ones and Taj had none - Adriano may have deserved to win the heat. But Taj’s critical, committed turns have been leaving the beach speechless and the judges in awe as they can’t help but give him that extra .1 or so needed to take the lead in any heat. We saw it yesterday against Julian, and now today against Adriano. Reading between the lines, the judges have shown that their ever-evolving criteria rewards electric maneuvers rather than tube-rides.
Later, during the last and most anticipated heat of the day, Jordy Smith entered the water to face off against two-time Snapper Rocks Champ, Joel Parkinson. Joel separated himself from Jordy with the best tubes of the contest, which he followed up with his patented swooping carve and two more little cover-ups for a 9.67 and a big lead. Jordy wisely used his priority to find his own draining pit, which he bashed almost to Greemount upon exiting the tube to score a 9.17 - just short of the 9.34 needed to take the lead. This is when things got critical, and proper use of priority really came into play. With just 30 seconds remaining, Joel held priority and Jordy was looking for a 7-point ride. Joel was sitting in the lineup a good 20 feet further up the point, and never even looked at Jordy’s winning wave - a wave that Joel could have easily prevented him from ever riding had he used his priority. Jordy threw everything he had at the rippable wall and easily attained the required score.
Joel is going to need to find some fire to add to his killer fitness and precision surfing if he is serious about contending for the World Title, while Jordy may have just got the momentum needed to begin his own Title campaign. In his next heat Jordy will face the breakout performer Alejo Muniz, and if he wins that heat then he will be up against Taj Burrow, and the two most in-form surfers of the event may even top the displays we all witnessed today.
Tomorrow, in what will be the last day of the waiting period for the Quiksilver Pro, I can guarantee we will see a champion crowned, but everything else is up in the air at Snapper Rocks. We will be watching the best surfers in the world doing battle in the pursuit of bucket-loads of money and immeasurable glory. Tomorrow we will see if the tour upstarts (Simpo, Wilko, Alejo, Tiago, or Dusty) prevail in a repeat of this morning, or if the larger-than-life giants of the sport (Kelly, Taj, or Jordy) will take charge in the final rounds of competition.