Surf: Four to six feet, light winds
Events Held: Remaining Round Three, two heats Round Four
Nature’s Call: Maybe I’ll let you get away with this one after all
Predicted: Stable swell conditions
After painful hours of deliberation yesterday morning, it turned into another limp, lifeless lay day. Everyone’s told to meet at Bells at 6am today for the contest call, but when the appointed hour comes around, the only people anywhere near the site appear to be the security crew and the judges. Ahh, the judges. First to arrive, last to leave. “Can’t see any surfers yet!” laughs Florida’s panel rep Jeff Klugel. To be fair, it’s still virtually pitch black.By 6:30 am, a few of the pros are rolling up. Parko gives a report on Johanna yesterday: “Barrelling! Got some pits! Yeah, it came up a bit onshore in the afternoon, but …” He leaves the rest unsaid. The contest coulda run after all.Little swell lines are creeping into Bells, but focusing more into Winkipop, the next bay around, where two guys (not pros) are enjoying their dawn patrol. Will it soon be all over for ’em? Occy peers down at Winki through the gloom. “It IS getting in there, eh?” he muses. “That was happpening yesterday, too, but I like it (at Bells) so much I kept sorta distracting everyone!”

The contest site — enormous, multi-layered, festooned with posters and banners for everything from prophylactics to wetsuits — looks like a forlorn, elephantine remnant of the glory days, before surfing events were all about surf, not crowds. Some cloud is drifting in from the west, theoretically onshore at Johanna, but nobody’s letting that affect their judgment too much. Pretty soon, contest organizer Max Wells comes striding out of the coffee tent and says: “Let’s go!” People begin taking off. The surfers are most eager for some action. Joel Parkinson has a big black V8 utility wagon, and floors it out and off up the Bells road in a cloud of blue rubber-smoke. It takes him one hour and 20 minutes to cover the {{{100}}} miles of winding country road between Torquay and Johanna Beach. Johanna’s kind of a natural marvel. The road there runs for a long time across flat farmland, then up a long rise and over the top of the coastal escarpment, and finally down through cool rainforest valleys. Ahead, if things are right, lies a vast blue sheet of smooth Southern Ocean. You never have to worry about swell at Johanna; you only worry if it might be too big.Your correspondent isn’t as quick as Parko. By the time SURFING gets into the impromptu Johanna parking lot (actually a cow paddock), Occy’s already beaten Lee Winkler, and Dean Morrison’s catching the first wave of his heat against Neco Padaratz. Kelly Slater’s watching. Kelly looks sharp and involved. When the judges downplay one of Neco’s rides, he picks up on it swiftly: “What was THAT about?” He immediately engages Kieren Perrow in a bet on the next score — and wins.