SURF: Four-to-six feet and plus, with varying winds
NATURE’S CALL: Ooh Andy, I love you
FORECAST: More of the sameIt isn’t everyday that you, the Average Joe, get a solo session at one of the best waves in the world with a captive audience of the best surfers in the world. That’s just what happened today for Ole Snyder, one of the doctors on call for the Quiksilver Pro Fiji. The eight competitors remaining in the event sat aboard the ferryboat in the channel, assessing whether to proceed with the quarterfinals or wait for another day. It was the doc’s chance to shine. He scratched into a slightly overhead Cloudbreak shoulder, realized it was going to close out, and dove over the back. His leash didn’t hold, and his board went washing across the reef. Like a good number of event favorites today, the doc landed on the wrong side of rhythm.”That’s how it always happens,” swore Chris Davidson, who managed to avoid the dark side to earn the first quarterfinal berth of his career. “Somebody gets in a rhythm, somebody doesn’t. It’s been a while since I’ve had it.” Davo overcame Narrabeen chum Nathan Hedge in surf that had come to resemble big Lowers lefts. Hedgey was frothing for a sick pit, but at Cloudbreak today, that mentality was a liability as wave after wave snuffed out many a form surfer. From Hobgood to Hobgood, Egan to Campbell, there was no finding the escape hatch due to tide, wind, or just plain fate. Each entered Round Four looking slick and determined, and each came off looking like Navin Johnson from The Jerk, void of any semblance of rhythm.”Sometimes it’s knowledge,” quipped Floridian Shea Lopez, one of the survivors along with brother Cory, “and sometimes it’s luck. With Andy, it’s definitely luck.”

To the dozens of spectators motoring in the channel, the largest crowd ever for this event, not to mention to thousands viewing via the live webcast from home, Andy Irons looked like the luckiest man alive. There hadn’t been a really good barrel ridden all morning as big turns were garnering scores and winning heats. But the champ paddled out against Taylor Knox and conjured two absolute beauties from the deep. He pig-dogged his way to yet another strong showing without breaking a sweat, ensuring himself a comfy ratings gap over the absent Kelly Slater and the rest of his cohorts. On his way back out after the second screamer, AI passed 2002 event winner Michael Lowe (who was on his way out for his own heat) and asked, “Not bad, huh?” Lowey shrugged it off and answered, “When you’re hot, you’re hot, I suppose.”Meanwhile, from the ferry, a very distinguished onlooker took it all in. Wayne Lynch, a guest of Quiksilver, was interested in how his heirs were handling the sport he redefined 35 years ago with a radically progressive approach. He’s been surfing Cloubreak since 1986, and ranks the lefthand reef as his favorite wave. “It’s sort of classic to check it out, to see where the guys are going with it,” he observed. “I think they’ve done pretty well. This contest is the kind of stuff we used to dream of. You used to need to have it in front of a carpark. I hope they realize how lucky they are. Now they get to come to places like this, andthey get paid.” After watching the good doctor go down in flames, the boys decided to hold off for another day. After all, no one’s in a hurry to leave. — Jason BorteRESULTS
Heat 1: Kieren Perrow 9.27; Damien Hobgood 9.00
Heat 2: Mick Fanning 14.43; Daniel Wills 12.84
Heat 3: Shane Powell 14.83; Luke Egan 9.50
Heat 4: Andy Irons 18.20; Taylor Knox 11.47
Heat 5: Michael Lowe 16.00; Beau Emerton 10.44
Heat 6: Shea Lopez 15.00; Michael Campbell 5.10
Heat 7: Chris Davidson 14.50; Nathan Hedge 10.50
Heat 8: Cory Lopez 15.50; C.J. Hobgood 14.13
Heat 1: Kieren Perrow v Mick Fanning
Heat 2: Shane Powell v Andy Irons
Heat 3: Michael Lowe v Shea Lopez
Heat 4: Chris Davidson v Cory Lopez