The 2008 season is officially off and running, and what a season it promises to be. Ask anybody in the know and they'll tell you, there's more talent on the world tour this year than ever before. "It could be the best season ever," pontificated Peter Townend from the hill overlooking D-Bah, where the first day was held due to lack of swell at Snapper.
Consider this: Mick Fanning's your defending world champ, and after a blistering season last year the man hasn't lost an ounce of focus. "He had a great offseason, had a few parties, got back on the training, and if anything he may be too focused," told Mick's shaper Darren Handley.
And while that's all well and good, one must consider the impact of he's had. After watching every heat today, it's safe to say Parko's surfing with renewed vigor, Andy Irons, while slipping to Mikey Picon, is returning to his old, competitive self. In the dying seconds of Round One he showed signs of life, taxing a small righthander and coming within inches of a solid comeback. And proving that he's matured he even gave Picon a pat on the back after the heat and a heartfelt congrats.
Then with all of these guys uping the ante one has to figure that Kelly Slater has good reason to do his thing. "He's a competitive bugger," continued PT from his vantage point. "The heavier the competition, the more he thrives." And even if he just squeaked through his heat today, he did rise to the occasion, and heck, he's here, which means he has to have some interest in the 2008 season.
But the talk of the tour thus far as been the debut of Dane Reynolds and Jordy Smith. Today Dane lost to Luke Munro and Jordy fell to Luke Stedman. Both Lukes are veterans, and demonstrated that consistency is key. But Dane absolutely lit it up, and even with his heat being the second to last of the day, the beach was backed and everybody kept their eyes glued to the kid that seems to have more talent, more creativity, and more flair than anybody. In the words of Surfer photog Jason Kenworthy: "He's rock and roll." Jordy on the other hand, while surfing extremely well, made a few strategic mistakes and couldn't quite find the waves needed to advance.
So, that's where we're standing right now. It's going to be one hell of a season. The forecast for the next few days is dropping off, but come the end of next week we could be looking at a solid swell. It's a bit early to say how things are going to play out this year, but whatever happens it's going to be interesting.