SURF: Four-to-six feet and occasionally perfect
NATURE’S CALL: Go to town, boys
FORECAST: Swell peaking, less wind, a tube jihadAndy beat the devil. He overcame a broken board, a missed opportunity, and a near relapse into the younger, easily deflated Andy, but he overcame nemesis Troy Brooks to keep both his Quiksilver Pro Fiji and 2003 ASP World Title mission on solid ground. Which is strange, considering there is no solid ground anywhere near Cloudbreak. The wave is practically in the middle of the ocean, naked to the elements. But for this battle, one that has been on everyone’s mind since it was set five endless days ago, the winds went slack, the sets poured through, and for once, it lived up to the hype.Brooks, you see, had won under the exact same circumstances last year, temporarily sending the champ-elect into a tailspin. Prior to this year’s showdown, each warrior sat aboard the Quiksilver contest ferry, Andy with everything on the line and the trialist with nothing to lose. From their demeanors, you would’ve thought the opposite was the case. Brooks studied the lineup with silent intent, oblivious to the circus spinning around him. Andy, meanwhile, couldn’t be bothered by the thought of competition. He sat with Mick Fanning and Joel Parkinson chatting about an upcoming boat trip, but his moment of truth was coming quick. As the heat began, Irons found himself quickly on the defensive. “I always get rattled against him,” he said of his opponent. “Can’t help it. He was totally looking at me, and my heart was going, ‘Bump, bump, bump, bump.'”Halfway into it, the champ was in a hole, with every soul aboard the ferry holding a shovelful of dirt to toss on top of him. He was blowing chances at every turn, including a botched barrel that snapped his board in two, then a solid six-footer that he just couldn’t catch. “After that one I was just bashing myself like in Harry Potter II, just going, ‘Bad Dobbie, bad Dobbie!'” Competitors were already figuring how much ground they stood to gain with Irons out, and then it came, a wave that will no doubt have an impact on this year’s world title race. Andy manhandled a throaty pit, threw a claim upon exiting, and weaved his web right onto the inside reef, where he launched a closeout floater as a capper. Tens across the board. Crisis diverted.

So, is it over? Has the Quiksilver Pro Fiji climaxed with a full day of heats left to run? Not a chance, because tomorrow promises to be even better, with a peaking swell and slackening winds. There are fifteen others with a mind for the prize, and none are ready to lie down and throw their legs in the air.The likely contenders, not surprisingly given the conditions, fit into one of two categories. Each is either heavy enough to keep from being bothered by the pesky winds or achieves the same result courtesy of a low, driving approach (All, by the way, are goofyfoots). The former group consists of Luke Egan and Mick Lowe, while the latter is made up of the brothers Hobgood, Mick Campbell, and the man whose victory would lead to the biggest celebration night these islands have even seen, Nathan Hedge.