SURF: 4-6 ft.
EVENTS HELD: The whole shebang. R4 through to finals.
NATURES CALL: Yeah, so-so. Not all time Supertubes by any means, but it was good.
PREDICTED: A 14-hour drive home for your poor scribe.

One of the basic tenets of surfing Supertubes is “never turn back.”

Tail jives that break your direction generally put you out of position, while big flowing arcs will keep you driving forward at a spot where — more than anywhere else in the world – speed is the essence.

Sater’s approach is predictably different. His turns are perfectly sculptured S-carves, rotating to the tail through 180-degree changes. How the judges should interpret Kelly’s surfing was the point of much debate when the contest started. In his first round, the Slater carves were the most heavy-duty turns of the day, but he kept surfing himself out of position. As the contest went on, he refined the turn to synch better with the Supertubes speedline.

“I think that’s the way to surf here because you cover more ground,” he explained, using his hand as an imaginary surfboard. “It looks better than the guys who keep going one direction, and to me that’s more radical.”

Duking it out against Occy in a match-up of two former J-Bay champions, Slater was ruthless. Occy is no pushover at Supertubes, but made two mistakes in a high-scoring heat. The first was when the priority-holding Australian let Slater sneak onto a set, which turned out to be a big score. The second was an act of nature rather than a tactical error. On a ride that could have sealed the heat win for Occy, he blew the end-section.

“I came off that floater and I had water in my eyes, so I couldn’t see what was going on. There was room for one more move, and I maybe could have got the score I needed.”

Small-man Daniel Wills cudgeled the lip to dispatch the smooth surfing world #3 Kieren Perrow, while tour veteran Luke Egan drew {{{CJ}}} Hobgood in the only all-southpaw heat.

Luke Egan’s trademark is his tail-drop floater. Or as one of my friends describes them, “window wiper jobbies.” A series of critical under-the-lip gaffs and Egan floaters opened his account with a 9.5. Clifton James eventually got the backhand pendulum swinging with an 8-pointer. CJ’s distance-garnering floaters yesterday and today were impressive. The foam here feels like heavy cement, and you’ve really got have the dexterity to “lift” your board onto the broken wave rather than just power your way over it. Scratching for a big score to pull the heat back, CJ found a wide one and wound off three gob-smacking turns to steal the win.

In a wave-starved heat, Holmes and Knox positioned themselves too far around the corner. Knox showed the better speed and edge control and won a low-scoring encounter. Still, a stellar performance from the South African. He1s held his own in the big league.

While the first four heats were all half-a-point or less photo-finishes, the bottom half of the draw saw a string of one-sided affairs. Parko was nowhere against Shea Lopez, whose bow-legged drop-and-climb routine gets him amazing lateral projection out here. With Andy (1), Fanning (2), Perrow (3), Corey (5) and now Parko (4) all out early, the ratings were about to tighten up.

South Americans Daltro and Herdy were easy fodder for Australians Morrison and Burrow. Bronte-based giant killer Tommy Whitaker (who incidentally is the brother of capped Australian rugby player Chris Whitaker) settled for his best result of the year, after losing his momentum against Damien Hobgood.

Slater showed no mercy against Wills in Q1. Five enormous behind-the-section hits on his opening salvo, ending the wave with a huge no-grab air on the inside. The judges must have been reserving 101s for the tube, because it was as flawlessly surfed as any wave you1ll see ridden at any venue.

Taylor Knox’s hard-carving rail based approach and big rooster tails downed CJ Hobgood, sparing Slater from another former world champ versus former world champ semi-final.

In a match of speed versus power, it was the forehand streamline of Taj Burrow over the backhand grunt of Shea Lopez. Taj was able to adapt his fins-free flair to the driving, down the line requirements of Supertubes. Damien Hobgood kept the flag flying for the screwfoots, banking an 8-pointer to end Dingo Morrison’s run in the last quarter.