SURF: 4-6 feet, offshore, sunny; 3 feet, onshore and everything in between
EVENTS HELD: Men’s Round One, Heats 3-16
NATURE’S CALL: I gave you plenty of gifts today; please open them next time
PREDICTED: A whole lot of shoe-emptyingIt’s approaching dark on Day Four, we’ve posted up at three different contest sites, traversed back and forth through enough deep sand to cross the Sahara and — amazingly — we’ve only completed 16 heats of competition. Or maybe it isn’t so amazing. With endless options, a predicted swell in full bloom and straight offshores leaving openings up and down the beach, you can’t help but be paralyzed by indecision. It’s like walking into a restaurant buffet filled with all your favorite foods and having to pick just one item — an item that your other 44 friends like, too. But they did have to pick just one — fast. And with Le Gardian offering some semi-walled, roping peaks, it seemed like the obvious call. Or maybe not. “We’re sending a team to check Le Penon,” said announcer and American expat Dave Mailman, referring to yet another sandbar a mile north (and the site of yesterday’s Evian Expression Session qualifying heats). “Hold tight.” So we held. And held. And held. Two hours later, after we could hold no longer, heat No. 4, Round One paddled out at — you guessed it — Le Gardian. “Don’t blame me,” claimed Occy, who dawn patrolled the spot and gave it the thumbs up. “They could have held this thing for two hours already.”Good thing these guys are professionals. Because if an average surfer had to deal with the emotional roller coaster that is the Quik French Pro, there’d be a whole lot of bogging going on. So, what actually did happen during today’s freebie round?Let’s start with the pleasant surprises. With the year winding down and results becoming more and more crucial, a few of the back 44 surfers — especially those who don’t have any WQS points — know they better act now if they’re going to have a job next year. Bruce did it a couple of days ago, and today a couple more strugglers won’t be getting a 33rd this event. Shane Beschen had a standout session yesterday at a little right we’ve dubbed “The Buddy Bar” (after our lil’ buddy Pat O’Connell). O’Connell, in fact, said it was the best he’d seen Shane surf in years. Beschen continued that roll this morning against Damien Hobgood and Kalani Robb. In conditions that looked like sizable wintertime Torrey Pines (a vision for you San Diego residents only), Beschen found corners and barrels and even connected one left for a 9.0. “Those lucky ones have to come around sooner or later,” he smiled. Nathan Webster and Kieren Perrow would agree. They both stole difficult heats with superior wave selection and a look of determined desperation.Next, it’s the plain-old surprises. Joel Parkinson was the only Big Dog to lose his heat today, and he did it to a promising young surfer from a faraway land: Canary Island surfer Jonathon Gonzalez. Gonzalez won the event’s trials and carried on with a polished, perfectly-timed attack — something Parko is usually known for. Instead, Joel just couldn’t find a rhythm, fell way behind, and ended up dropping in on the wildcard — “just for fun.” Gonzalez was a little perplexed by the exchange, but then reasoned: “I guess he didn’t have a choice.”

Finally, it’s the no surprises: {{{CJ}}} Hobgood won his heat despite a last-minute effort and a double flip-off from Sunny Garcia. Kelly, who was the first heat at the high-tide sandbar known as Le Penon (they relocated yet again at about 3 p.m.), is looking free and easy on an epoxy diamond tail. “I’m bringing ’em back,” he claimed. “Someone gave me a surf mag from the ’70s recently, and I saw a Channel Islands ad featuring a diamond tail. So, I figured why not? It’s a good mix between a roundtail and a squash.” Fred Robin actually held the lead for much of Kelly’s heat, but Slater just toyed with him. Three elasto-wraparounds later, and it was time for Slater to really play: carving 360s, a big, near-made air reverse...he tried ’em all. “Too bad I didn’t make that air reverse,” he said later. “That three would’ve been a 9 plus.”The other non-surprise was that Andy Irons won yet another heat. But it happened to be the best heat of the day against someone older than Occy. That’s right: America’s original multi-world champion, Tom Curren, is this event’s wildcard. Apparently, Curren asked his friend Kelly Slater if he’d pull some strings and get him in the event. France wasn’t about to turn away their former adopted son, so Quik Europe granted him the wildcard (a rarity in these very brand-conscious days). Along with Cory Lopez, Andy and Curren’s heat was the last held at Le Gardian. Irons started with a solid backhand tube to doggy-door escape, but Curren stayed close. First: a classic carve to roundhouse that Dean Morrison called “the best cutback I’ve seen in me life.” Andy then bulldogged a rare, open left. A long, hand-drag tube, some macho snaps and a solid 8.5 score. Curren needed a 9 something to pass him, and he did everything he could with his last right. A stall-from-the takeoff to solid lock-in, big floater off the closeout, then a Huntington flashback: a big weave and hop through the gutter to the inside shorebreak, where he backhanded another section. It was the only “connection” of the event so far, but reforms don’t count for much on this hyper-accelerated tour. Score: 8.1 and a trip to the Loser’s Round.Which is where we’ll pick up tomorrow. That is, if our 45 friends can decide on a sandbar.— Evan SlaterRESULTS1.Guilherme Herdy
2.Jake Paterson
3.Luke Hitchings
1.Shane Beschen
2.Damien Hobgood
3.Kalani Robb
1.Peterson Rosa
2.Eric Rebeire
3.Nathan Hedge
1.CJ Hobgood
2.Sunny Garcia
3.Armando Daltro
1.Andy Irons
2.Tom Curren
3.Cory Lopez
1.Kelly Slater
2.Frederic Robin
3.Pat O’Connell
1.Jonathan Gonzalez
2.Richard Lovett
3.Joel Parkinson
1.Nathan Webster
2.Mick Campbell
3.Daniel Wills
1.Dean Morrison
2.Trent Munro
3.Raoni Monteiro
1.Kieren Perrow
2.Taylor Knox
3.Troy Brooks
1.Michael Lowe
2.Victor Ribas
3.Greg EmslieFor the rest of the results plus heat scores, go to www.aspworldtour.com