SURF: 3 to 5 feet and hypnotizing
EVENTS HELD: Men’s Round Two
NATURE’S CALL: Bigger, better, windier
PREDICTED:130 km winds — blowing up!

“You never know before you go.”

So says Cory Lopez, who lost a tight one today to Brazil’s Marcelo Nunes. He was talking about the waves, of course (believe it or not, not every set at the fabled Superbank turns into a flawless, 12-second drainer), but it may as well have been about the contest itself.

Because starting today, Mar. 3, the WCT honeymoon period is officially over. No more bro shakes and blank slates — 16 surfers had to go home today with a bitter 33rd as their first result of the ’04 season. And whether they admit it or not — they all know a bad mark in the first event hurts more than any other. It’s as if the contest gods just told them, “You know the past three months of training, visualization and anticipation you just went through? Well, it was a complete waste of time.”

No one’s feeling the hurt more than Mick Fanning. Before the first Quiksilver tent even went up at Snapper Rocks, everyone fingered Mick as the one who’d go all the way. His mates Parko and Dean Morrison won the past two events here, he’s more focused and committed to the cause than anyone and…well, he IS the Superbank.

But after mistiming an average Round One Heat with Guilherme Herdy’s career session, Fanning faced wildcard local Luke Munro in Round Two. Normally, this would have been automatic for the world’s quickest carver. But 21-year-old Munro, a two-time trials winner here and Superbank addict himself, found the drainers, including a deep, stand-up cavern from behind the rocks that earned a 9.4. Fanning on the other hand, was overanxious and out of synch and ultimately fell out the back on his last chance fulfill the Coolie Kid prophecy. “Biggest upset…of all time?” asked one onlooker.

Even Munro thought so. “Before they did the seeding, I was, like, ‘Please don’t let me get Mick,'” said Munro who lives at nearby Currumbin and is of no relation to Trent or Shaun. “He’s that good, you know? And then when I beat him, I was kind of bummed — I mean, I was sure he’d win the thing. But in this case, I guess it was either him or me.”

Fanning wasn’t the only favorite to fall. A rejuvenated Shane Beschen had all intentions of showing off his skills in hollow, sand-dredging rights (remember those three 10s at Kirra in ’96?), saying, “I can’t wait to go out there and get barreled.” But Luke Egan welcomed Besch back to the ‘CT with the highest score of the day — a wave Shane left for him after going on the first wave. “I didn’t even f–king listen to my own advice!” steamed Shane after his heat. “The second waves are always the better ones — I knew that!”

He had every right to be pissed. As Beschen’s choice turned into a faceless foamball, Egan was right behind him, emerging after the spit and six seconds in the tube, a Glen-Winton-style layback through the ultra-shallow “Little Mali” section, then 10 consecutive straight-up cracks. The 9.87 was the best technically surfed wave of the day by at least 1.932 KM — the distance of the Superbank.

Bruce Irons also had a rude welcoming. In his first contest as an official Top 45 member, Irons had to get past pointbreak wizard Danny Wills to avoid the dreaded cellar-placing. And he almost did it. Needing a 6.93, Bruce put himself way behind the rock, air-dropping into below-sea-level sections and trying to score an 11. “He’s swinging for the fence!” said his brother, Andy, who had to go through the same learning process himself. “He doesn’t need to do that.”

Irons seemed to hear his big bro’s advice, and sliced one of the better tight-pocket carves of the day on an in-between, but the judges didn’t buy it. They gave him a 6.83 and a message: if you’re gonna beat the vets, you gotta beat ’em.

The Superbank is a numbing visual experience. Waves break with such precision, such perfection, onlookers can only let out extended groans with each impossibly long tube. The longer the groans, the longer the barrel. And no matter how many you’ve seen, you just can’t help but place yourself in each empty, rifling wall that funnels through.

Maybe this is the biggest reason why a loss here is so tough to take. Because these guys get to physically place themselves in these empty, rifling walls. And as soon as they’re out, they’re civilians again, forced to turn in their all-access pass to the best (and most crowded) sandbar in the world. As {{{CJ}}} Hobgood says, “Every heat you win out here, you feel like you’ve won the whole contest. It feels that good.” — Evan Slater


Quiksilver Pro presented by Boost Mobile Round Two (1st>Rnd3; 2nd=33 receives US$3,400)
{{{H1}}}: Kelly Slater (USA) 17.4 def. Dane Reynolds (USA) 9.0
{{{H2}}}: Luke Munro (Aus) 17.67 def. Mick Fanning (Aus) 11.9
{{{H3}}}: Joel Parkinson (Aus) 17.47 def. Shaun Gossmann (Aus) 11.83
H4: Taylor Knox (USA) 15.56 def. Luke Hitchings (Aus) 7.17 H5: Michael Lowe (Aus) 15.1 def. Troy Brooks (Aus) 14.5
H6: Marcelo Nunes (Brz) 14.16 def. Cory Lopez (USA) 13.6
H7: Phil MacDonald (Aus) 15.5 def. Greg Emslie (SAfr) 13.77
H8: Damien Hobgood (USA) 16.0 def. Eric Rebiere (Fra) 10.83
H9: Daniel Wills (Aus) 15.23 def. Bruce Irons (Haw) 14.33
H10: Luke Egan (Aus) 15.04 def. Shane Beschen (USA) 12.93
H11: Kalani Robb (Haw) 15.83 def. Pat O’Connell (USA) 14.47
H12: Michael Campbell (Aus) 17.77 def. Beau Emerton (Aus)
H13: Nathan Webster (Aus) 14.9 def. Trent Munro (Aus) 13.73
H14: Paulo Moura (Brz) 12.5 def. Tim Curran (USA) 4.43
H15: Neco Padaratz (Brz) 13.5 def. Toby Martin (Aus) 6.0
H16: Darren O’Rafferty (Aus) 18.87 def. Armando Daltro (Brz) 8.9