By Jamie Tierney
Barrels, nothing but barrels all day today. For 20 heats and over the course of 10 hours Cul Nus beach in Hossegor, France delivered the goods. It was numbing. Mick Fanning got shacked about 30 times in his Round 5 heat and 38 year-old Kelly Slater decided he hadn't gotten enough draining tubes in his two heats (even though he'd bagged plenty) that he had a two hour free surf next to the contest bank after progressing through to the quarterfinals. "I felt like I hadn't gotten good waves here yet this year," said Kelly. "So I wanted that to change today."
Jordy Smith suffered a scare in the new non-elimination Round 4, but came back strong in the last heat of the day against Tom Whitaker to keep his world title dreams squarely in line. Tomorrow, though, he'll come up against Fanning - with one of them in jeopardy of losing ground to the 9x world champ. "I'm pretty relaxed," said Jordy. "I think the pressure is on Kelly at the moment."
If that's the case then Kelly sure isn't showing signs of feeling it. His girlfriend did his post heat interview this morning and he came back from a slow heat against young danger men Owen Wright and Michel Bourez in Round 4 by posting two big scores back to back. Tomorrow, he'll face Bourez again in the quarters, hoping to avenge a title drive killing early round loss he suffered to the Spartan back in 2007.
With only 7 heats remaining in the contest with tomorrow looking like the last day in the waiting period for quality waves, contest officials can afford to be a little choosy in deciding when and where to run. Stay tuned.