2009 Billabong Pro J-Bay Day 1

Beyond the webcast
Today saw the not-so-riveting poor man’s round take place. That’s not to say nothing interested happened in and around the Billabong Pro, South Africa.
By Jed Smith

Here's some things you didn't see

For all that's been written about Kelly, his temperament and his future, he remains unaffected.While Timmy Reyes and Devyn Mathews surfed their round-one heat, which Timmy won with a score of 14.34, Kelly and a bunch of pros as well as one very famous retired pro, enjoyed a beautifully shallow end section of Supertubes.

The large portion of sand that had amassed up the point has begun drifting down. It was collarbone-cracking-shallow through Impossibles, with caves plentiful. Reynolds was out, sitting inside and not hassling, as is his mode. Parko was there. So too were Taylor Knox, Curren, two local shralpers and a bunch of cheery punters. Kelly was heavily insulated in booties, gloves and a white suit, and spent over two hours in the icy surf.

At one point, Timmy Reyes came zipping through the public section on the way to his eight-point ride. As he approached in the tube, Kelly had his arms raised in TV antenna pose, yelling at him. Timmy emerged and responded with a look back, lazy snowboard rail lift. Kelly then spent a long period way down the end section with Curren's little dude, schooling him on the nuances of surfing.

When he rejoined the pack, Taylor was paddling into a bomb. As the wave disemboweled over the waist deep section, Kelly paddled over the shoulder calling homophobic obscenities at him. "Cock suck," or something along those lines, he yelled as Taylor gapped it down the line. Throughout the session, Kelly was chatty and would sometimes commentate from the back of the wave as punters chased the pit. This was not someone consumed by a high-pressure title race.

To see Curren surfing J Bay is a privilege. Though that doesn't guarantee him waves. Curren was unimpressed by the conditions. While Kelly found himself in the right spot, or the wrong spot, over and over again, threading obscenely long and narrow tubes, Curren couldn't buy a wave. After waiting fifteen minutes, he again found himself bested for position by a punter clearly not down on nostalgia. Curren exercised a glorious toasting. It was a shoulder-to-shoulder take off, into a swooping bottom turn, with Kelly and Taylor giggling and cheering from the shoulder. The next I saw, the other dude's board was tomb stoning, while wisps of spray periodically capped off the back as Curren smacked it way, way down the line.

Back on land, with Reynolds’ round-one heat against Drew Courtney minutes away, the pro community had gathered in the viewing area.

Barca, Freddy P and Kekoa stood in a corner at the back. Kai, Damian Hobgood, Miky Picon and a bunch more were seated abouts, while Kelly and Taj both arrived to watch their first heat of the day. The expectation was immense, though totally unregistered by Reynolds.

Drew was already in his contest singlet before Dane had finished changing. As he arrived to the marshalling area carrying a big mug of coffee, Drew was already on his way out. They met at the gate, Reynolds searched for Drew's eyes, they offered each other awkward nods, before Drew gave Reynolds right of way through the gate. "How long is there?" Reynolds asked the marshals. "Oh, okay. Thankyou," he replied in a shrill, quirky tone, when they told him.

He took a seat, finished his coffee, made a joke about how stiff he was, got a knuckle massage from his woman, high-fived Nate Curran and made his way out.

"C'mon Ronaldo," said Kai Otton, sitting next to me along with Taj.

"I hope he gets some waves," said Taj.

After a relaxed warm-up, Reynolds got the first wave. He handed priority to Drew with a three-foot close-out that had a scoring potential around the mid twos.

Halfway through the heat, Kelly took front and center on a bench. In his time in the viewing area, he didn't go more than two minutes without fulfilling a media commitment. First GT, then a French TV station, then, while he sits in front of us, Fuel TV. He accepted it all with grace, offering good humor and solid thought in his responses. Dane beat Drew. Kelly was happy. Now onto day two, where they promise us bigger surf and better surfers.