SURF: All over the map…again.
NATURE’S CALL:I’ve been very generous.
PREDICTED: Fifteen “culture” trips to Paris

“The two results that matter most on the WCT are firsts and 33rds,” says tour vet Sunny Garcia. “Those are the ones where my wife sees my biggest mood swings.”

In a sense, the Loser’s Round is as desperately fought as the finals. {{{Escape}}} with a victory, and you’re at least breaking even. Suffer defeat, and all those nasty emotions and questions scream to the surface: “What am I doing here?” “Why do I even surf contests?” “Am I worthy?”

It happens to the best of ’em (or, in today’s case, the almost-best of ’em) as current No. 6 Damien Hobgood, No. 7 Mark Occhilupo and No. 9 Jake Paterson all fell to lower seeds, stamping their French passport with that dreaded number 33. Other surprise casualties included Taylor Knox, Cory Lopez and Richard Lovett

Of course, when someone’s losing, somebody else is celebrating, and no one celebrated more today than Team Brazil. In five Second Round face-offs, they emerged victorious in all of ’em: Daltro over D. Hobgood. Raoni Monteiro over T. Knox. Marcelo Nunes over (OK, fellow Brazilian) Paulo Moura. Neco over Cory. Victor Ribas over our lil’ buddy, Pat O. “Vive Brazil!” yelled “Gordo” the cameraman, throwing out his trademark bird whistle mid-morning. Marcelo Nunes seconded the claim as Peterson “The Animal” Rosa gave a Godfather-like head nod. His boys made him proud today.

Especially Salvador da Bahia’s Armando Daltro. The competitive journeyman hasn’t really found a home yet on the WCT, but he’s at least finding a place to crash. He upset Taylor Knox in Japan, was the only surfer to beat Joel Parkinson at Trestles and now, his work in France. From start to finish in his heat against Quik Fiji winner D. Hobgood, Daltro didn’t let up. One big right, two speed arcs and a “supair floatair” for a 7. A roping, fast-track left for a 6. Daltro didn’t look like one of those back 44 surfers who wait to give the heat away; he’s looking for big results in the Big Leagues. “I’m not qualifying through the WQS yet, so I need to do well in these contests,” he smiled. “France is so hard to find a rhythm, but it was good to me today.”

Good thing someone was smiling, because in yet another day of sandbar roulette, we saw a whole lot of sour WCT faces. “The worst calls I’ve seen all year,” said Cory Lopez about the abundance of waves and lack of forward progress in the event. “They should already be running the quarters by now.”

No need to bore you with the decision-making quagmire once again, but this is how it played out: nine heats at the “Buddy Bar” (the real name of the spot is some French word translating to “bare asses” — for obvious reasons). The remaining seven heats went down at yesterday’s afternoon sandbar, Le Penon. Conditions in the morning were similar to yesterday: well-groomed lines, sunny, offshore…but semi-walled and inconsistent. The afternoon was also a carbon copy: marginal shorebreak in strong, sideshore winds.

In fact, if you really want to boil it down, you could have left after the first heat. Joel Parkinson faced off for the first time against his hero, Tom Curren in the best conditions of the day. Parko obviously learned some things from the three-time world champ — even going as far as copying his glory-day heat strategy: the pre-heat hide-and-seek. Organizers wanted a 10 a.m. start, but that looked doubtful when no one could find the grinning Coolie Kid. One ATV operator even came tearing up to your correspondent and asked in his best English: “Are you Jo-el Pahrkeensone?”

Of course, the real Parko arrived just in time, slipped on his suit and paddled out to a patiently waiting Curren. Tom kept up for a wave or two, laying down Search-era carves {{{100}}} yards down the line, but Joel put a stop to his hero worship when he found the first good tube of the morning, sliced apart the remains and earned a 9.1. “This is one to tell my grandkids about, for sure,” beamed Parko.

“It was going great there for the first 10 minutes,” deadpanned Curren (neither surfer had caught a wave at that point).

Curren might be still in a mood for joking, but as for the other 15 eliminees, we’re sure nothing is very funny right now.— Evan Slater

For full results, go to www.aspworldtour.com or www.quiksilver.com.