Surf: Head-high, barreling sandbar right point
Events held: Men’s round four
Nature’s call: Are you a gambling man?
Predicted: Better be better“This Guilherme guy never falls when he’s against TB,” mutters world ratings leader, Andy Irons, honestly perturbed. Guilherme Herdy is pivoting hard on his backhand, and world number three Taj Burrow is out of his element, actually needing a 7.33. “Go boy!” Mick Fanning, dripping wet from an admirable loss to family man Daniel Wills, lets it rip for one of his own. The line to the righthander now in TB’s sights, with a soft, pillow breeze — it’s a wave out of your dreams. “Ahh…this one could be an eight,” calculates, AI, watching in slow-mo. But if you were world champ, Andy Irons — who would you be cheering right now? TB does his mental thing for a tube to super 50/50 grinder float. It’s an 8.7 and that’s it: Herdy answers, fails, loses priority; it’s done. Afterwards, Andy and Mick seem genuinely stoked. “Whoosh, every time you’d hit it — that thing was flaring up,” AI compliments Burrow on the fine use of his speed-blasting craft. “Oh, thanks Andy, thanks mate,” blushes the happy country boy. Number three and closing fast.

So, where’s Kelly during all of these “good times”? As of this writing, he seems more of an enigma than ever: there’s no more Shane “Back-Dorian”, no more mellow “Mob”, no more Besch. . .for now. Then again, Kelly’s always proved better on the other end of the old cheering thing, anyway. He’d rather push at these new kids till they’re hoarse and dry. So it’s probably no mistake that he’s absent from the competitor’s area while AI does a wave-for-wave two-minute dismantling of the indubitably razor sharp, Mick Campbell. He later calls it: “One of my best heat starts all season.”No, from the looks of it, from the way Slater goes out against, nutty-challenger, Peterson Rosa, this is as good as he’s ever been, and better. The lines are pouring in and this isn’t even a heat, he’s just catching way too many waves. There’s no strategy, unless you consider an approach akin to six straight doses of Bali High a heat surfing strategy. This is even a new Kelly, a guy who says, “I picture what it will be like to lose, and then, once I’m all right with that — then, that’s when I’m ready to win.”

Make no mistake, the whole tour’s down to see this. They’ve got to be. And that’s it, surf fans: KS has once again the day’s big score, 18.30, and next to him, this blue planet’s top three are making this comp — even with ratings aside — one monumental affair. And not just because of their surfing. It’s so boiling good out there, this freaking correspondent of yours, well, he’s kicking in his seat.— Hagan KelleyQuiksilver Pro Round Four Heats (1st>Quarterfinals; 2nd=9th receivesUS$5,000)
{{{H1}}}: Daniel Wills (Aus) 14.77 def. Mick Fanning (Aus) 12.5
{{{H2}}}: Taj Burrow (Aus) 16.1 def. Guilherme Herdy (Brz) 15.43
{{{H3}}}: Taylor Knox (USA) 14.34 def. Michael Lowe (Aus) 13.0
H4: Andy Irons (Haw) 17.5 def. Michael Campbell (Aus) 13.17
H5: Trent Munro (Aus) 15.67 def. Patrick Beven (Fra) 13.67
H6: Phillip MacDonald (Aus) 15.16 def. Beau Emerton (Aus) 11.16
H7: Kelly Slater (USA) 18.3 def. Peterson Rosa (Brz) 12.33
H8: Shea Lopez (USA) 15.67 def. Kieren Perrow (Aus) 14.67