Surf: Head high, OK, slightly onshore
Events Held: Mens round three
Nature’s Call: Ahh, these guys are hot enough, you don’t need me
Predicted: Slight swell decrease

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After he’d shot Sunny Garcia down in flames, it took Mick Fanning 15 minutes to make it back up the beach.

Everyone wanted a piece of Mick today, on that sunny, wealthy Gold Coast sand. At least 10 separate Brazilian bikini chicks got him to stop for photos. Kids put boards in front of him, hoping for signatures. “Mick! Over here, Mick!”

Part of it was Fanning’s status as a bounceback competitor. Mick is coming off eight months away from this crazy WCT scene, and only eight or nine weeks of serious surfing, since he did the splits under a solid Indonesian wave in June last year and ripped a hamstring tendon right off the bone of his left leg. “I think the first couple of weeks were the worst,” he says self-effacedly. “After that I just decided to enjoy myself. Have a few beers.”

Part of it, though, was his surfing – a devastating hatchet job on the Snapper Superbank’s slightly less than Super head high walls. So devastating, in fact, that Sunny – never one to roll over easily – actually conceded defeat with several minutes to go by dropping in on the last wave of the heat.

Mick was just one brilliant surfer on a day when the top 44’s real big guns blew themselves clear of the field. Even this short distance into 2005’s ASP WCT, it’s already apparent. Fanning, the Ironses, Joel Parkinson, Occy, the Hobgoods, Nathan Hedge, Kelly Slater – these guys are operating at a different competitive level.

Much has been made of the judges’ new scoring criteria, with its inclusion of the terms Variety and Flow. To your correspondent’s eye, all it’s done is codify what the judges have been scoring ever since Andy started kicking everyone’s asses back in 2002. A.I.’s big advantages were a) his constant changes of turn angle – real Variety, in fact – and b) his ability to make those changes fit almost any wave he rode – real Flow.

So why bother codifying what they’re already scoring? Maybe just to force the rest of the seeds to pick up their game. If anything the judges seem liberated. No longer do they have to stress over what some top pros call scornfully “windscreen-wiper turns” – they can simply dismiss ’em out of hand. One surfer told SURFING about a first round ride he’d watched, from a pro who’s made a career out of doing 20 identical turns to the beach. “He did that on a perfect wave and they gave him 4.5,” chortled the surfer. “Last year for the same thing they were giving him 8s.”

A.I. doesn’t seem to be too bugged either way. He went out against a brave Luke Munro and immediately smashed out a 9.{{{57}}}, followed by a ride we’d best describe piece by piece: a major snap to full tailslide reverse, followed by a cutback and a 360 spin foam bounce, followed by two cutties and a tube. “The flow thing’s really nice,” he said later. “Seeing a wave put together right is a good thing. But I won’t change a thing. I just react to how I’m seeing the wave – I never think, ‘OK, this’ll fit the format!'”

Neither does Brother Bruce. The younger Irons did something today that was pure Tom Curren – cut back, got himself tangled in the foam, then turned it to his advantage, backdooring a perfect little tube section. Had he come snappily out of the turn, he’d have missed the tube for sure. That’s Flow.

Then again, the Variety/Flow thing was suggested to the judges by none other than Kelly Slater, proving again just how wacky pro surfing really is – I mean, imagine any other pro sport taking how-to-score advice from one of its major stars?? Your correspondent can’t help being alert to anything Kelly suggests, and sure enough, on his first and third rides against young rookie Bede Durbidge, Mr Slater was horrendously overscored. Dude, horrendously. We’re talking 8.8 when he’d surfed a 7.2. Thank God he picked up the game later in the heat, pulling several moves worthy of big scores – although by then the judges, seemingly trying to recover, downgraded them by around a point.

Kelly’s still up there in so many ways we find it hard to, err, judge.

Yet in all this we’re leaving out Chris Ward. Cripes!!! Wardo! “There’s an axe murderer on tour,” is how Dino Andino described this magnificent reprobate, and Wardo is on one of the great Redemption Massacres in recent sporting history. He scored the event’s highest points in ruining Kalani Robb in round two, and he showed nerves of titanium in crushing Taj Burrow’s dreams today.

He’s been kept out of this scene too long. If someone’s not careful, he’s going to win the whole goddamn contest.


Heat # 1
Fredrick Patacchia def Luke Egan

Heat # 2
Trent Munro def Daniel Wills

Heat # 3
Phil MacDonald def Neco Padaratz

Heat # 4
{{{CJ}}} Hobgood def Travis Logie

Heat # 5
Mick Fanning def Sunny Garcia

Heat # 6
Damien Hobgood def Shane Beschen

Heat # 7
Bruce Irons def Taylor Knox

Heat # 8
Andy Irons def Luke Munro

Heat # 9
Joel Parkinson def Victor Ribas

Heat #10
Tom Whitaker def Darren O’Rafferty

Heat #11
Nathan Hedge def Greg Emslie

Heat #12
Mark Occhilupo def Marcelo Nunes

Heat #13
Kelly Slater def Bede Durbidge

Heat #14
Richard Lovett def Dean Morrison

Heat #15
Chris Ward def Taj Burrow

Heat #16
Troy Brooks def Michael Lowe


Heat # 1
Fred Patacchia vs. Trent Munro

Heat # 2
Phil MacDonald vs. CJ Hobgood

Heat # 3
Mick Fanning vs. Damien Hobgood

Heat # 4
Bruce Irons vs. Andy Irons

Heat # 5
Joel Parkinson vs. Tom Whitaker

Heat # 6
Nathan Hedge vs. Mark Occhilupo

Heat # 7
Kelly Slater vs. Richard Lovett

Heat # 8
Chris Ward vs. Troy Brooks