SURF: Chest-high and average increasing to double overhead and wild
EVENTS HELD: Men’s Round Three plus the Evian Expression Session
NATURE’S CALL: Don’t tempt me.
PREDICTED: RCJ and Gary Elkerton towing out the back while Round Four gets caught in the rip“Hey boys! Hurry up and wait!” 1989 world champ Martin Potter ribs the competitors from Quiksilver’s custom-built, all-terrain six-wheeler that doubles as webcast headquarters. The truck used to be a tracking vehicle for Europe’s famous Paris to Senegal desert race, but now it roams Hossegor’s dunes, posting up at the area’s best sandbar and streaming all the action to the world. Inside, Pottz is surrounded by three monitors, a half-dozen laptops and some high-tech contraption with six screens and a control panel straight out of Star Trek. “Yup, we’ve come a long way here at these ASP events,” he says.Along with Jason Haynes, John Shimooka and an increasingly larger team of IT wizards, the Quik Pro France is producing the equivalent of live TV as long as a heat’s in the water. It’s expensive. It’s exhausting. But it’s become mandatory for every ASP event, and the crew knows they’re making an impact. “The response has been amazing,” says Haynes. “All you have to do is look at the endless string of emails during a webcast to know it’s all worth it.”But there are times, like this year’s Quik Pro France, when the webcast is especially trying. There’s a set of hatchet marks one of the truck’s windows, representing the number of times the event moved locations in the past eight days. It’s now up to 16. Wednesday morning was also a letdown, as they set up at the Buddy Bar — went through all the digital gymnastics — to webcast a single heat: Round Three Heat One, between Nathan Hedge and a half-protesting Luke Hitchings. They postponed the contest after that, then never started up again. And then there was yesterday, Pottz sitting in the cockpit for three straight hours in front of Le Penon, “sweating his balls off,” only to be told — sorry, no heats today.Which brings us to Saturday, the second-to-last day in the Quik Pro waiting period with two full days of surfing left. Early this morning, contest director Rod Brooks had high hopes of finishing the rest of Round Three and half of Round Four. That way, we’d really have some news for you. But at this very moment, as guys like Bruce Irons (who made it to his first Round Four of the year today) are towing in to big-but-fat offshore peaks for the Evian Expression Session, we only completed Round Three. Translation: it’s all going down tomorrow, from Round Four ’til the glorious end.

Still, there is some news to report. {{{CJ}}} Hobgood won’t be gaining any ground on Andy in France. He had one of the first heats of the morning, in semi-walled rights at Le Penon, and he had to get through one of the New School’s grittiest competitors: Shane Beschen. Beschen’s had some tough breaks in his WCT rebirth year. He screwed up his knee for the first half of the year, has been at the bottom of the draw for the second half and hasn’t had much luck. Occy, Taj, Slater. . .they’ve all had their way with Besch. “The way I’m drawing ’em now,” says Shane, “Every heat’s like a final.”And that’s just how he surfed it. He came out strong and animated while CJ was still feeling out his board under the drab, gray marine layer. He stayed one foot ahead of CJ until Ceej strung together three backside handplants for a 6.17: the exact score he needed. Beschen didn’t buckle, though. He waited out the back, flipped on a shoulder-high set, hit it once, then launched into a solid frontside air. He stuck it. He claimed it. He won it. “I knew I had to go above the lip to get the score I needed,” he said.CJ, on the other hand, wasn’t sure what he had to do. His three-turn stinger earned the same points as his first average right, so he asked a judge if they overscored him on one wave and underscored him on the other. The judge confirmed his suspicions, and CJ, always a professional, couldn’t help but vent. “I’m going for a world title and they can’t get their scores straight?” he asked. “Maybe if they got docked ${{{200}}} every time they screwed up this wouldn’t happen. There needs to be some accountability.”Especially since Andy Irons is making all the title-chasers pay so dearly for every loss. Irons was the standout surfer of Round Three, regardless of what the score sheet says. In challenging, all-over-the-place conditions at Le Gardian, he bent every wall to his liking and left wildcard Jonathan Gonzalez utterly alone. On one crumbly left, Irons snapped then pulled through a barrel where there was none. On a long, lined-up right, he pounded it to a point where the wave just withered in submission. If he’s feeling the pressure of being a frontrunner, he’s not showing it. “To be honest, it’s nicer to be the guy coming from behind,” he said after his heat. “Being the target is stressful. These guys are just clawing and scratching and they’re all surfing good. I try not to pay attention to the other guys, but trust me: I know everything that happens as soon as it happens. And I was definitely happy when Besch pulled out a win.”As for the other clawers and scratchers, Kelly and Parko, they also surfed lopsided heats today, as if they were out there just freesurfing, preparing for tomorrow’s inevitable showdown. Tonight, Andy will go back to his hideout with girlfriend Lindy. Kelly will likely play yet another game of poker. And Parko will likely go back to diaper duty. But don’t be fooled: we will be on tomorrow. And with the swell scheduled to really jump overnight, we should be in for a show. Hurry up and wait.— Evan SlaterQuiksilver Pro France Round Three Heats (1st>Rnd4; 2nd=17th receives US$4,225)
{{{H2}}}: Sunny Garcia (HAW) 13.67 def. Tom Whitaker (AUS) 7.84
{{{H3}}}: Peterson Rosa (BRA) 14.5 def. Chris Davidson (AUS) 10.23
H4: Shane Beschen (USA) 13.43 def. C.J. Hobgood (USA) 12.17
H5: Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 10.9 def. Daniel Wills (AUS) 9.44
H6: Kieren Perrow (AUS) 16.17 def. Dean Morrison (AUS) 9.16
H7: Tim Curran (USA) 13.17 def. Michael Campbell (AUS) 13.07
H8: Andy Irons (HAW) 15.83 def. Jonathan Gonzalez (CNY) 8.84
H9: Kelly Slater (USA) 14.67 def. Armando Daltro (BRA) 12.64
H10: Phillip MacDonald (AUS) 16.24 def. Troy Brooks (AUS) 14.03
H11: Taj Burrow (AUS) 14.97 def. Nathan Webster (AUS) 5.76
H12: Michael Lowe (AUS) 13.07 def. Marcelo Nunes (BRA) 9.67
H13: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 15.17 def. Eric Rebiere (FRA) 3.73
H14: Victor Ribas (BRA) 15.5 def. Guilherme Herdy (BRA) 7.43
H15: Bruce Irons (HAW) 11.66 def. Luke Egan (AUS) 4.73
H16: Neco Padaratz (BRA) 12.0 def. Lee Winkler (AUS) 8.27