Digging through tea leaves. Pressing lumps from fowl intestines. Even feeling the kinks in a young prince’s kaka. For whatever reason, trying to tell the future is always a filthy business of investigating somebody’s leftover crap. Our annual surf predictions are no different. We open up our body of work from the past 12 months and pick through the juiciest parts, arranging palpable trends for the year to come. Some are spot-on, others are just spotty. But it’s still the best method we got for predicting what’s moving the surfing sport and lifestyle. After all, if you want to find out what’s going on, sometimes you gotta get your hands dirty.

Count the seconds while we give you a quick rundown of Rob Machado’s ’04 itinerary: Teahupo’o. Tavarua. Mundaka. Chile. G-Land. Pipeline. Still counting? So are we. Because when America’s souliest goofyfoot combines with the world’s bowliest lefthanders, you know he’ll be living behind the curtain. Especially since Rob’s pulling into these waves not during heats, but on his own time. “It’s part of a movie project I’m doing called Left,” he says. “It’ll basically be a tour of all the best lefts in the world.” Along with the gold standards, Machado also has a few aces full of holes he’s planning on visiting, specific locales like “Central America” and “somewhere in the South Pacific.” Wherever they are, it doesn’t even matter. Give him decent swell at half his proposed breaks, and this former Pipe Master won’t just make time stand still; he’ll turn back the clock.
Runner-up: A Coolie Kid. The Superbank ain’t going anywhere, and these guys are.
Longshot: A Puerto Kid. Australia ain’t the only place with a Superbank.

The surfing road-trip is about to change forever. Britain-based researchers at Gibbs Technologies have already begun marketing amphibious cars that drive directly from land into the water, and then just keep going. It’s only a matter of time before other manufacturers jump on board with this new breed of off-road vehicle. Modeled like a hot convertible sports-car, the Gibbs Aquada is capable of speeds up to {{{100}}} mph on land, and 35 mph on water. And get this: it’s capable of pulling a water-skier. Are you thinking what we’re thinking? Holy tow-in, these things could open up entire new realms of epic surf breaks sitting right in our own front yards. Offshore reefs, inaccessible coves, hidden bomboras, and difficult paddles are suddenly all easily within driving distance. Of course, with new technology comes new problems: don’t like sand on your floor-mats? Imagine your friends clambering directly from the water into your backseat. Don’t like that stale wetsuit smell? How about your buddy reeling a ten-pound sea bass on to your floorboard. And we won’t even discuss the rust issues. But what’s some minor car wash worries compared to the ability to road-trip up to The Ranch or turn Maverick’s into a big-screen drive-in? Just don’t roll your dad’s car at Cortes Bank — that one could be tough to explain.
RUNNER-UP: Underwater digital cameras. Sony’s pocket-sized, underwater (to five feet), digital camera is enough of stoker that Quiksilver purchased one for all their favorite team-guys (as well as hooking up the entire Top 44 at the Boost Mobile Pro).
LONGSHOT: Personal photographers. “Check it out guys, I just bought this killer underwater digicam. Now who wants to go snap some shots while I surf? Hey guys . . .guys?”