Events Held: Round One; Round Two, Heats 1 and 2
Surf: Head-high, slightly tattered Lowers
Nature’s Call: Last year I did the pushing. Now it’s your turn.
Predicted: A lot of flying fins.

In the basement of this mega-ton machine of steel and bolts, better known as the scaffolding of the Boost Mobile Pro at Lower Trestles, the surfers are assembling their weapons. From the look of things, this year’s damage will be done either by a smooth, rounded pin or bump-squash, averaging out at 6’0″ by 18.0 inches wide.

Perfectly suited to the macho, super-walls of ’02, but today we have it a bit disjointed from a mix of windswell that’s diluting the true southerly walls of their true potential. Many of the pros either feel or look that way themselves; something strange with all of this early morning sunshine and free coffee and doughnuts available up in the VIP lounge. Fresh from his “latest” jaunt in the Mentawais, Shane Dorian, waxing a crisp new board cries, “I know it’s Lowers but, it feels like Huntington.”

He could have a point. Damien Hobgood, whose board looks well adjusted, likens it to Bells Beach in Australia. “From the start you’ve gotta’ get movin’,” he pauses and holds his hand like a backhand hack to a sloping wall, “because once you get up there, usually there just isn’t much lip.”

This comes to be the telling statement of the day, starting from heat one where big-face turners both, Shane-O Dorian and Dean Morrison appear to be surfing at top-level but were at the same time unimpressed. Is it that board control levels have arose so high that classic peeling walls can no longer suffice? It does feel that way as the next few heats breeze by with huge sprays and scores, including defending champ, Luke Egan, with the comp’s first nine but, mostly the surfing looks a little too stable—as if the wave’s curves are a bit too easy.

This all changes when we come to Taj Burrow. His surfing is a riot to the waves; so fast and varied that it hurts your eyes — but in a good way, of course. As Taj paddles back out, I ask Nathan “Noodles” Webster his thoughts on my theory. He leans on his mate, Jake “Snake” Paterson for a second opinion and they mutter back and forth for a second or two, then he stretches his neck over and adds, “You know Kelly’s performance this year at Jeffreys? Well, he’ll get 10s here too, but they won’t even compare.”

Have guys like Kelly merely taken the high-standard and applied it a little higher and steeper on the wall? Pretty soon J-Bay will probably be easy and boring for these guys, too!

Fortunately, these places never will be for us. Here’s what kept things exciting on Day One at Lowers:

*Mick Fanning was the first pro out this morning for a warm-up, and the practice time pays off with the biggest score of the day: a 9.43. CARVE. And that means the entire wave.

*The surf gets perkier when Brazil’s Paulo Moura throws, as Kalani Robb, puts it, “Whoa, does that mean it’s already 1 o’clock?”– an imperially precise backhand turn that somehow only garners a 6.83. Meanwhile, local wildcard, Shane Beschen, takes the only ticket to round three with his stir-em-up best: an air-to-air forehand for 8.{{{80}}}. After the heat, Moura passionately pleads his case to the judges: “I always lose; don’t you guys like my style? All I hear is, ‘Shane Beschen aerial’– my first wave was much better than a 6.83. Can you retell me the criteria: more speed, more power?” I wonder if the word “appeaser” is included in an ASP judge’s job description.