Day one of the Quiksilver Pro kicked off in junky three-foot surf at Snapper Rocks today with the spectre of the 40-year-storm brewing over the horizon.
Contests organisers would normally have happily walked away from this day, only the third day of the contest's 12-day waiting period, especially with swell on the way. But be careful what you wish for here. What forced their hand today was a giant, pulsating red blob parked smack bang in the middle of the Coral Sea, almost a thousand miles to the north.
With the sea temperature abnormally warm, this storm is sucking energy from the simmering ocean, and is set to unleash its fury upon sinners and saints alike later in the week. "This could potentially be the biggest tropical cyclone we've seen in a long while," said event forecaster, Swellnet's Ben Matson. And while the Queensland pointbreaks generally thrive on a clean cyclone swell this one looks anything but. The system is close to the North Queensland coast, too close to generate the long-fetch swell Queensland surfers lust after, and the most likely scenario is that the cyclone will wallop the Queensland coast over the weekend with heavy winds and a big, ugly swell.
Last year the Quiksilver Pro suffered a similar fate when a big low parked off the coast and ripped the Superbank apart. Looking at what we're facing here, there's a saying about lemons and pies that spring to mind. Your reporter has a fresh 6'8" waxed and ready at the door, not to tackle the monster swell when it arrives, but to facilitate his cowardly escape in the opposite direction. We may yet be paddling back home to Sydney by week's end.
Monster storms aside, we did see the first pro surfing of the season after a 10-week hiatus, and there were some glimpses amongst the mush today that we are indeed in for something truly, trulygood. Where to start? Well, first up, Kelly and Andy both somehow lost. Kelly got taken down by young Quiksilver wildcard Julian Wilson, the result of some red-hot surfing from the 18-year-old upstart (who even audaciously paddle-battled the eight-time world champ behind the rock) and a board change mid-heat for Kelly that simply didn't work. Andy, meanwhile, has been down with the flu and surfed accordingly. And while the event's two biggest names were forced into the sudden death round two, plenty of its other stars had a good run in the paddock today. The unholy local trinity of Parko, Mick, and Deano all found the waves no one else could find, and romped effortlessly to big wins. Last year's Rookie Of The Year, Bobby Martinez showed he's looking to improve on his number five seeding with a display that showed he'll be even tougher than he was in his debut year. The unsponsored Bede Durbidge was the other guy to really shine today, throwing his considerable weight into some of the day's biggest turns. However, it was the performance of the tour rookies that made the day special.
Josh Kerr came into the 2007 tour with some airshow titles under his belt and some brash talk-up of his chances, but today proved he is the real deal. Surfing his local break, Kerrsy not only read the confusing lineup like a street directory, he also unleashed a repertoire that not only included several forehand punts, but some classy rail work as well. Kerr was joined by Aussie Kai Otten, Brazilian Leonardo Neves, South Africa's Ricky Basnett and Reunion's Jeremy Flores as guys who can now claim to have won their first heat in surfing's big league. The Tour's new faces proved they're not planning on being rabbits in the headlights of their more experienced tour brethren this year.
The form guide for this event (read: Mick, Joel, Dean, Kelly, Andy, Taj) may in fact be blown away however – along with half the Gold Coast itself – come the weekend. We're likely to once again see the temporary demise of the Superbank, and contest organisers are already running through Plan's B through to K. The swell's likely to be even too big for Burleigh, and the only place left that may even go close to handling the abomination that's about to descend on us may be the wave everyone is currently writing off for dead. It would be the ultimate irony if the swell that killed The Superbank was the same swell that resurrected Kirra back into the light.