b>Surf: 6′-8′ and grinding, variable winds (Biggest around dark)
Events held: Round Three through Quarter Finals
Nature’s call: Don’t call it a comeback
Predicted: More (Please)

This wave is a flying sensual dream. Gunning off the bottom it’s as though you can actually feel the chatter of speed pushing through his back fins. As he stalls high in the first sloping part of the wall, the ratio of wave height to sand depth begins to click and pull at the waves bottom, faster and faster — hypnotically — leaving no option now but to grab rail and fly, and no distraction but one last glimpse of your opponents red vest as he’s pushing through the back before pulling a bit higher, accelerating, then near black; confusion, and finally, in the distance the speeding light of day. That’s easy, right? That’s Kelly Slater, a man driven by freakish talent. But by days’ end, more than a few will wonder if that’s all that pushes him.

These have been some long days waiting on the whims of wind and tide; it’s impressive how readily change can happen around here. Around 1 pm Mick Fanning busts into the competitors tent, where heater is on full.

“Guess I’ll be getting ready, as they might be making a call,” he says with a chill, as the young contender drags his words to show just how “stoked” he is.

” So go over there and catch some.” Kelly Slater motions to the windblown soup along the other side of the bay, “I heard it’s really good.”

“Yeah . . .and I’ll go caddy for you, too,” counters Mick, a crooked smile forming on his lips, and with a slight glare of irony in his eyes.

Outside, a decision is made. “All surfers; it’s official, all surfers be back for a 4 pm call,” comes over the PA. A few moments before, Taj Burrow, who’d already rode like all heaven this morning, late dropping into a tube deeper than Slater’s and the comps first perfect ten, stomps his foot, unhappily. The kid’s on fire — you could’ve given him six points for that one drop alone.

By 5:30, the surf has gotten pretty darn big, and Fanning has just performed a very formidable job in beating Kieran Perrow, who normally thrives in this kind of stuff, with the wind and rain and even a little . . . hail? Who knows what might happen next?

Big Mick Lowe appears out the gate very capable of some such mockery, rolling into a huge steamer that he knifes and bowls into a 9.07 right in the face of his highly exalted foe — Kelly Slater. And ten minutes later, Kelly’s yet to counter.

So how does he do this stuff, as if on cue? With two minutes to go, after another couple rides, Lowe has got priority, and Kelly still needs a 6.9. Lowey takes a big sweeper and all the boys nod, “Yeah, right, that will improve his score.” But before they can re-figure what Slater will need next, he’s already half stuffed himself in an 8-foot brown and dredging hole, taking hostage long seconds of each our lives. Whoosh — out he comes — Slates ain’t ever lying down; it’s a 7.9, enough for the win. Mysteriously, as he’s jet towed out for one last ride, the commentator commands, “Jet ski drivers, you must drop both surfers at the port, not in the lineup.” Over in the crowd, Mick Lowe is seeing red. Someone is trying to console his wife, Amanda. “It doesn’t matter if he surfed good,” she snaps. “I’m so cranky right now, and I’m never this cranky. “Three times” — she puts up three big fingers — “three times the jet ski took Kelly all the way out back, while they dropped Michael at the port.”

“That was a joke,” Lowey fumes. “What’d I have to do? Are there two different drop off points — one for him and one for me? Are they taking favorites?”

With the sun going down on Joel Parkinson and his hopes of passing the raw grunt of Nathan Hedge and his 6’5″ Dahlberg, Kelly shares his take on the aforementioned controversy. “That jet -ski driver,” he laughs lightly, “The guy kept dropping me too far out the back, getting me caught right in the rip.”

His whole face lights up with a bright smile that denies how sserious things will become tomorrow as he faces Mick Fanning in the first Semi, with fellow title contender Burrow glaring from across the board in a heat against Hedge. Just then, a boom of thunder sounds in distance like the roar of big guns, and inside of the swollen, fluorescent purple horizon, the sea mist blowing over the lineup is a tint of war-like smoke. Hagan Kelley

Billabong Pro Mundaka Quarterfinals (1st>Semifinals; 2nd=5th receives US$8,000) QF1: Mick Fanning (Aus) 15.6 def. Kieren Perrow (Aus) 12.16
QF2: Kelly Slater (USA) 16.07 def. Mick Lowe (Aus) 15.{{{57}}}
QF3: Taj Burrow (Aus) 10.1 def. Flavio Padaratz (Brz) 8.44
QF4: Nathan Hedge (Aus) 13.0 def. Joel Parkinson (Aus) 10.0

Upcoming Semifinals (1st>Final; 2nd=3rd receives US$10,000)
SF1: Mick Fanning (Aus) vs. Kelly Slater (USA)
SF2: Taj Burrow (Aus) vs. Nathan Hedge (Aus)