Surf: Three to four feet, good to OK, offshore/sideshore/onshore
Events Held: Quik Pro to final
Nature’s Call: You’ve just done the free-surfers a huge favor
Predicted: Swell increase in 24 hours, several thousand hangovers

Gold Coast, Australia: At 8:45 this morning, Dean Morrison stood in a shady place on the surfers’ lounge walkway overlooking Snapper Rocks, and did his best to … well, vanish.

Dean’s a sharp, cheeky bloke in private; in public, he’s shy and often nervous. And right then, 15 minutes before his fourth round heat with Kelly Slater, he clearly hoped the ground would just swallow him up.

“You couldn’t draw a better wave on paper, eh,” he mused, as a three-foot piece of water jewelry sparkled its way down the Superbank.

“It’s a funny place to surf everyday. You learn to deal with the crowd. Sometimes it gets to me … You’ll get in an argument a day when it’s really good.”

With those crowds often topping {{{200}}}, Snapper’s not always the safest surf spot — even when you’re a signed-up, registered Coolie Kid. But for Dean yesterday, the lineup at Snapper was the safest place he’s ever been. The smallest, slightest, and least extroverted of southern Queensland’s fabled triplets surfed a series of perfectly judged heats to eventually take down a superb Mark Occhilupo in the final and join his mates Joel and Mick in the WCT Victory Club. This was the best high performance contest in surfing history. We’ll say it again, just to drive home the point — this was the BEST. Ever. Fifty separate rides scored nine points out of 10 or higher: A total so far ahead of any other surfing event it doesn’t bear any kind of {{{comparison}}}. And 17 heat scores averaged over nine points per wave, including the single highest-judged heat in ASP history: the quarterfinal between Mick Fanning and Taj Burrows. How si-i-i-ck was it? Sick enough that Fanning scored 9.6 for a three-footer on which he fell at the end, and finally broke the hoodoo surrounding a 10-point ride with a devastating long tube and a series of crazy snaps and top turns. Sick enough that Taj, in losing, scooped an extra $5,000 for the event’s longest barrel.

Kelly and Occ pondered the high score averages and figured the judging panel had set their line a little too high: “Maybe a point too high, all the way,” said Slater. Your correspondent frankly couldn’t blame ’em. Judges, spectators, surfers … we’d all seen too much this week. Too many re-entries! Too many cutbacks! Too many fades-to-bottom-turns-to-lip-punches! Too many Occy-style headshaking backside snaps to tailslides, and Mick-style 270-degree swivel-backed gouges, and Joel-style weird trim lines with merciless lip bounces, floaters and alley-oops off the end section.

And toward the end, it seemed as if the whole ferocious display was beginning to wear down the surfers themselves. By the semis, they were actually starting to make mistakes. “I’m f—ked!” summed up Mick succinctly. “It’s a lot of surfing … and when it’s this perfect you just want to bash it as hard as you can.”

Personal bests, or near-bests, were constantly happening. “This is the first time I’ve made the quarter-finals in five years!” yelped Pat O’Connell. Unable to stop smiling on land, Pat let go of his precise style in the water, smashing away freely at anything he could find — not necessarily a surprise. After all, basically, Snapper’s just Lower Trestles rights with tubes.

Jake Paterson pile-drove his way through the best set waves of the day against Andy Irons, getting a solid edge over the champ. Jake was busy signing autographs after the win; one grandmotherly lady lined up with the grommets. “Is he a champ, do you think?” someone asked her.

“You bet he’s a young champ!”

“Are you going to give him a kiss?”

“Yep!” And she did — puckered up and stuck a big smack on Jake’s cheek. It’s the simple things.