2009 Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast: Day 1

Conditions: 2-4 feet, clean in the morning but dirty by lunch – like a white shirt on pizza day
Events Held: Mens Round 1 (still the old format, with three-man heats and no elimination)
Nature's Call: If you want Snapper, I know a great seafood place in Surfer's Paradise.
Predictions: A planer in every pot, and a shaping room in every garage.

There was something missing at Duranbah today, where the Quiksilver Pro commenced in dreamy, backlit peaks of glass at 7:30AM. No, not just the swell (those dreamy peaks didn't really hold muster). Andy Irons was missing, palpably so, like the all-beef patty in a Hungry Jack's sandwich (that's what they call Burger King here! Ah, it's the little things.) And just as a vegetarian Whopper would be a minor letdown, competition without Andy seems rather incomplete. Surfing's modern Cold War just lost its USSR, but those of us scarred by an era of tense arms races – played out from J-Bay to Pipeline over the bulk of the noughties – aren't quite resigned to the end of hostilities. When Kelly wins his heat, the knee-jerk reaction is to see how Andy fires back. The new reality will take some getting used to.

And AI wasn't the only thing missing today: a significant portion of Kelly's board seems to have disappeared – about 5" off the nose and a fair bit of volume, by the look of it. As with everything the Champ does, however, Kelly's switch to a diminished surfboard is pure, calculated strategy. His widely reported adoption of a dwarf quiver (he calls the boards "Wizard's Sleeves") is now being tested outside the Santa Barbara laboratory, on the world's biggest stage. This is a monumental change of tack, as if Tiger Woods were to make his Masters debut with a chopped-down set of clubs. The confidence to put a major championship on the line with new equipment is literally the biggest endorsement these super-competitors can make. Simon Anderson comes to mind, as his kooky Thruster design didn't gain acceptance until he took it out in the Bells contest and promptly emptied a clip into the rest of the 1- and 2-fin tour. Victory speaks volumes.

Fun fact: the Anderson parallels don't end there. Simon made all his own boards, and still crafts the magic for everyone from you to Sl9er (remember his no-traction Jeffreys winner in 2005?) Similarly Kelly, having beaten the game on "hard" when it comes to riding surfboards, has indeed now taken to shaping them as well. Today he was on one of his own design, a 5'4" egg-shape that – as he's insisted such boards do – hugged the D-Bah curves and found quirky little surfaces to play on, while other guys hacked ham-handed at the chunky walls. It'll be interesting to see if other top surfers follow suit – 1989 world champion Martin Potter apparently is. Kelly shaped him a Wizard Sleeve of his own, a wide little 5'6" epoxy that's so thin he called it Pottz' "diet board."

Also, without Andy and Bruce, the brotherly angst was missing. There was a good chance for it in Heat 6 between {{{CJ}}} and Damien Hobgood, but the twins sat a rugby pitch apart and barely even crossed paths. CJ stuck to the southern wall, while Damo went enormous on the main peak straight in front of the contest zone and quickly had his brother, as well as Basque-master Aritz Aranburu, comboed. So it goes.

And Snapper Rocks was missing! No disrespect to Duranbah, which started the day as a live-action commercial for immigrating to Queensland, but the perfect beachbreak was blown apart by ten and competitors were left wondering about that endless right-hand point they were promised. The forecast isn't great for the next few days, but there's potential for a blip Monday, and another Wednesday, and maybe some top-quality Snapper by week's end (depending on who you believe). In a grand reversal of fortunes, it was the trialists who got long, winding pointbreak yesterday as they battled for a spot in the big show. Now, their "Dream Tour" counterparts are stuck bunny-hopping across the onshore crumbs and trying to find the odd lip to tag. Trials winner and Coolie boy Corey Ziems got a one-two punch in the form of deteriorating conditions at D-Bah and what we might call a stacked heat: Taj Burrow, surfing the strongest of anyone today (by your correspondent's nave reckoning, at least) and Dane Reynolds, second strongest. Poor Corey! He works and trains and rips his way through a brutal trials field, only to find himself in a Dane/Taj panini. Dane didn't really get the waves because, again, they weren't really there to be gotten. Taj, meanwhile, is the only surfer on tour who actually gets excited when Mundaka goes flat and the Spain event relocates to Bakio – a sloppy, God-forsaken patch of sand that you'd never cancel a nap to go surf on. That's a fair assessment of the contest site today, as well, and TB was in his element. He was doing that Taj thing wherein he launches an air, sucks his knees up near his ears and flares the tail about 6 feet out – on a two-foot wave. If the waves stay small, there's no reason Taj should lose the contest (then again, there's no reason he shouldn't have a world title by now, so best tune in and watch anyway).

I was hoping to wax historic on the heat between my two favorite surfers, Taylor Knox and Joel Parkinson, but Jay Thompson stood up and KO'd the both of them, scoring a clutch 5.67 with 44 seconds remaining. Touche, Bottle.

As mentioned, the swell may not permit competition tomorrow, so we'll all have to find something else to do. Whatever it is, I don't suppose it'll be as compelling as man-on-man 'CT styling, but I'll be back here reporting on whatever comes up. Check in for daily coverage from the Gold Coast – contest or none – and remember that Round 2 is for keeps. Also, if you see one Phillip Andrew Irons, tell him he's missed.

This gallery is brought to you by surfingthemag.com

Click here to see the above images in their larger, original size.

Heat 1: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 13.67, Dustin Barca 11.87, Dean Morrison (AUS) 9.70
Heat 2: Tiago Pires (PRT) 12.00, Bobby Martinez (USA) 12.00, Roy Powers (HAW) 7.27
Heat 3: Mick Fanning (AUS) 11.83, Ben Dunn (AUS) 11.37, Phillip MacDonald (AUS) 8.76
Heat 4: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 12.{{{80}}}, Jordy Smith (ZAF) 12.00, Drew Courtney (AUS) 8.{{{57}}}
Heat 5: Heitor Alves (BRA) 13.67, Adrian Buchan (AUS) 12.30, Marlon Lipke (DEU) 10.27
Heat 6: Damien Hobgood (USA) 17.50, C.J. Hobgood (USA) 12.83, Aritz Aranburu (EUK) 4.93
Heat 7: Jay Thompson (AUS) 13.67, Taylor Knox (USA) 12.67, Joel Parkinson (AUS) 12.00
Heat 8: Kelly Slater (USA) 12.17, Dayyan Neve (AUS) 11.00, Daniel Wills (AUS) 10.67
Heat 9: Julian Wilson (AUS) 14.10, Bede Durbidge (AUS) 12.73, Mikael Picon (FRA) 9.06
Heat 10: Taj Burrow (AUS) 16.50, Dane Reynolds (USA) 14.23, Corey Ziems (AUS) 8.80
Heat 11: Tim Boal (FRA) 15.84, Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 13.94, Mick Campbell (AUS) 13.06
Heat 12: Greg Emslie (ZAF) 13.66, Nathaniel Curran (USA) 8.67, Chris Ward (USA) 8.50
Heat 13: Kekoa Bacalso (HAW) 17.33, Chris Davidson (AUS) 15.84, Kai Otton (AUS) 9.83
Heat 14: Nic Muscroft (AUS) 15.33, Michel Bourez (PYF) 12.{{{90}}}, Tim Reyes (USA) 9.57
Heat 15: Josh Kerr (AUS) 15.50, Gabe Kling (USA) 11.07, Tom Whitaker (AUS) 10.60
Heat 16: Kieren Perrow (AUS) 13.60, Jihad Khodr (BRA) 9.61, David Weare (ZAF) 9.34QUIKSILVER PRO GOLD COAST ROUND 2 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 1: Bede Durbidge (AUS) vs. Daniel Wills (AUS)
Heat 2: Joel Parkinson (AUS) vs. Corey Ziems (AUS)
Heat 3: C.J. Hobgood (USA) vs. Aritz Aranburu (EUK)
Heat 4: Adrian Buchan (AUS) vs. Marlon Lipke (DEU)
Heat 5: Bobby Martinez (USA) vs. Drew Courtney (AUS)
Heat 6: Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) vs. Phillip MacDonald (AUS)
Heat 7: Chris Ward (USA) vs. Dustin Barca (HAW)
Heat 8: Kai Otton (AUS) vs. David Weare (ZAF)
Heat 9: Tim Reyes (USA) vs. Jihad Khodr (BRA)
Heat 10: Tom Whitaker (AUS) vs. Gabe Kling (USA)
Heat 11: Dayyan Neve (AUS) vs. Michel Bourez (PYF)
Heat 12: Michael Picon (FRA) vs. Chris Davidson (AUS)
Heat 13: Dane Reynolds (USA) vs. Nathaniel Curran (USA)
Heat 14: Taylor Knox (USA) vs. Mick Campbell (AUS)
Heat 15: Jordy Smith (ZAF) vs. Dean Morrison (AUS)
Heat 16: Ben Dunn (AUS) vs. Roy Powers (HAW)