Surf: Head high, left sand point, semi-closeout
Events held: Men’s round one, through heat 11
Nature’s call: No sleeping on the job
Predicted: A tiny tide window no matter what the size

1. Irons, Andy_____Haw_____6960
2. Slater, Kelly____ USA_____6228

About an hour ago, these “were” the ASP world tour rankings. As Andy Irons flew down through the mountainous green of Basque “Spain” for the Billabong Pro Mundaka, a drastic change in these ratings were probably the last thing on his mind. It just wouldn’t have seemed fitting, what, with this being the event of his title sponsor, and after the damage he’d already left up in Hossegor — top points in what locals called, “the best beachbreak barrels of the year.” Nope, flying down the A-8 towards Bilbao, whispering romantic notions in his girlfriends ear — the thought of an early round loss or an inch of ground to Kelly Slater would’ve just seemed preposterous.

But, as today proved, the idea that the tide-sensitive, fickle lefthand tube, Mundaka, will provide enough to satisfy this increasingly heated title race might even be more unbelievable. “It’s a retarded place to hold a contest,” explained Kalani Robb, pointing at a low-tide grinder seeming to be sucked lifeless back out to sea. “They can’t even finish a whole round here; one heat the waves will be cranking, the next heat they will be gone.”

He’s right; as this morning went from burger to 5-foot speed-trains in about the time you’d get one leg in that damp wettie, and then only to agree with the outbound current for half the time it took most of the competitors to say, “Shouldn’t we be starting already?” By the time the top five came around, starting with Joel Parkinson vs. wildcard Sam Carrier and Trent Munro, the rip was immense, turning the waves into bottomless 3-foot walls: too small to high line and plus; now with a dastardly sideshore wind.

Somehow, with Parko, and then Fanning; these two both found their speed drive, utilizing longer bottom turns and avoiding when possible the speed ending, “Air-drop Float,” to pass on. As the champ’s heat neared, against Phil Macdonald, whom he’d somewhat humiliated in their recent Hossegor final, and wildcard goofy, Trestles local Nate Yeomans, things were looking good. Getting ready in the competitor’s tent, he held a calm half to nobility — laughing at jokes, cuddling up to his girl — it seemed this would be just another day on the job. Thirty minutes later, as his Quiksilver Pro-winning DHD took one last trip above a 4-foot Mundas’ dredge, that was not the case at all. Kaboom! Two pieces. Moments later, confronted by the media blitz, he dropped his broken stick with a thud and wasn’t ashamed to say, “That’s bullshit! We shouldn’t have to bend the format around the waves, we should be at Anglet right now, look at it; it’s pretty much a closeout out there. I don’t know who made this decision for no losers round, but I know I wasn’t at that meeting. . .Ha! I just know Kelly’s gonna’ go win it now, Kelly or Taj.”

Back at the hotel, young Nate-Dogg Yeomans tried to sneak into an elevator, unnoticed. He’d ripped to his advantage in the detonating lefts, popping airs, timing floats, pulling a small tube out through the doggy-door; yet it’s not every day that you break the Hawaiian world champ in another one of the biggest heats of his life; he didn’t want a lot of attention on himself. But he still couldn’t hide his feeling. “How sweet was that one, bro?” said Nate. As he pulled out of the elevator and grabbed my shoulders, there might as well have been lightning surging from his hands. “Duuuude, I’m psyching. . .but, I was fricken out of there; Andy was staring at me so pissed.”

Right around this same time, Kelly was out lighting up the very next heat. Describing what I’d missed, Kalani Robb’s eyes got real big, “Did you see his form: Bwwaa!” and he put his hand upside down. Inspired, he grabbed his vest for the next heat, of which I was his caddy, one that he’d win and that Taj Burrow, world number three, would barely squeak for second.

Fighting through the rip, there was Kelly out the back, relaxing after a very big win over Jake Paterson and local Iker Fuentes. “Hey Kelly,” said your correspondent, “do you know Andy lost — and that he’s already claiming you to win?”

“Really,” said Kelly, his eyebrows lifted. “So he’s already putting up his defense?”

You should have seen his Cheshire grin.— Hagan Kelley

Billabong Pro Mundaka Round One (1st, 2nd>Rnd 2; 3rd=33rd receives US$3,000)
{{{H2}}}: Danilo Costa (Brz) 16.17; Mick Lowe (Aus) 10.87; Pat O’Connell (USA) 7.16
{{{H3}}}: Michael Campbell (Aus) 17.17; Luke Egan (Aus) 12.43; Tom Whitaker (Aus) 10.74

H4: Tim Curran (USA) 12.17; Taylor Knox (USA) 10.83; Neco Padaratz (Brz) 5.76

H5: Kieren Perrow (Aus) 10.83; Victor Ribas (Brz) 7.84; Tiago Pires (Port) 6.94

H7: Joel Parkinson (Aus) 16.43; Trent Munro (Aus) 11.0; Sam Carrier (Aus) 5.9

H6: Paulo Moura (Brz) 9.9; Mick Fanning (Aus) 9.0; Adrian Buchan (Aus) 8.53

H8: Phil MacDonald (Aus) 13.16; Nathan Yeomans (USA) 12.43; Andy Irons (Haw) 11.34

H9: Kelly Slater (USA) 13.87; Jake Paterson (Aus) 13.1; Iker Fuentes (Spn) 8.76

H10: Kalani Robb (Haw) 13.84; Taj Burrow (Aus) 7.7; Hodei Collazo (Spn) 6.9

H11: Dean Morrison (Aus) 15.1; Guilherme Herdy (Brz) 13.77; Toby Martin (Aus) 12.16