SURF: chest- to head-high wind slop
EVENTS HELD: Round 4 through final
NATURE’S CALL: so over it
PREDICTED: Mick Fanning wins France(8 a.m. Windy mush) How’s this for a cold cup of coffee: 22-year old Australian super-pro, Joel Parkinson exits his round 4 match 3-minutes early, leaving local veteran and the mostly jubilant Pat O’Connell needing a 9.83. It might as well have been a combo. Pat’s form on this early, crusty day was crazy smooth, flowing effortlessly, with his crumble float acceleration very pure. But Parkinson’s wave-form knowledge was impeccable, when he read a mid-bay right for a 9.43 of high-wall carving to merit a much cleaner day. Watching closely you’ll see, this tour merits a much larger following. With each turn being a tool for the next, viewing is almost like a ride through our very own eyes. Like as Parko pops a little air out of the second big carve, the show-time is so prevalent you can feel as if you’re sticking it with him, going, “yeah, that’ll do it — give those judges what they want.” Kelly Slater is the dean of that dance. He’s the six-time world champ, he’s the formula. For the most part, all of the Parkinsons and Fannings, Burrows and Irons still have to wait for him to deliver something to emulate. It’s kind of like Curren back in his day, only Kelly’s less elusive, which could be a small hindrance in that he’s not disconnected from the close dissecting of his act. In round four he cut Brazilian Neco Padaratz into small pieces with A-bomb hacks linked like basic roller coasters, while his peers pinpointed a few small mistakes. Oh, to be the most perfect surfer in the world.

Speaking of perfect surfing, Quarterfinal No. 1 was built of none other than Taj Burrow and Mick “The Silk” Fanning. If anyone, it would have to be one of these two to take Kelly; that was the vibe on the beach. As the conditions turn out, Taj would wind up (no pun intended) having Fanning under his thumb by the half way, and a sickening thought, really, have you any idea of the whistling blond’s prowess for these past three days. He’s been doing turns that defy emulation. One carve-down on the late afternoon juice of day two was so impressive that he’d placed his entire back “inches from the steepest place on the wall, but it wasn’t a layback at all.” Try that riddle on for size, when you’ve simply wished for “just” a Taylor Knox hand-pivot.After a HOT Victor Ribas had squarely canceled the “Bruce Irons popularity hour,” leaving Ma and Pa Irons glum, but brother Andy not so much so, I got to ask Taj about his last big heat, and right as Kelly’s next one came underway. “Is your biggest problem behind you now?” I asked. “Oh, I’d say so,” he replied. Kelly rode his first quarterfinal wave, up against Taylor Knox, a {{{mid-size}}} left. Taj watched loosely and continued, with a question, “Did you see Mick’s surfing over the last couple of days?” “No one was even close.” Out front Taylor hooked a good score from a bad right with precise carves. Taj finished his thought and said, “But I’m very relaxed now.”

Taylor had to be precise: Kelly was now trailing the blood of a 17th-placed Andy Irons, and Taylor knew from prior experience just what that means. Fortunately, he didn’t let it faze him, but instead, kept in a battle of his own. In their last meeting, a month ago at J-Bay, reportedly Kelly had done an awfully mean thing to Mr. Knox — beating him like a small child with curly red hair. Today Knox had his payback in the form of a 3-foot right and two dragon-fire wraps worth a 9.0. Unfortunately, he may have been a little prematurely fond of his work, when he rode in switch for the victory lap. At the start of Semi No. 1, it almost looked like Taj would suffer a similar fate. The supreme confidence of Taj Burrow was being left in a rancid pile of burger, while a revving Victor Ribas shot out into the lead. It was unexpected and a good explanation of why Pat O’Connell flicked me in the ribs as the soft-spoken and light-weighted Brazilian slashed a second left, delighting the little Irishman to say, “Look–he’s got a motor under there.” He had found two 7.0s and a healthy lead. But he failed to build it, and that was his bad mistake. Taj found his rhythm in the dying minutes and put him away. Leaving the small bloke nothing but to shout a bit of Portuguese aggression as he walked away.