Hot? Did we say hot? Hardly. The same super storm that froze half the US sent a chill down the spine of Central Florida. Beanies on the beach. Frost on windshields. Even the usual tradeshow tarts had to trade their daisy dukes in for juicy sweats. The good news? The weather brought surf for the fifth annual Sebastian Inlet Pro. After two hold days, a couple schwonky mush burger rounds, and one north-wind fueled hell day, Sunday finished with some clean looking waist to chest high sets and sunshine for a capacity crowd. The bad news – at least for the hometeam: 2008 WQS champ Nathaniel Curran won to keep the title in Cali for the second year straight despite facing three Florida foes, including Cory Lopez, Blake Jones and an on-fire Aaron Cormican who lost by less than half a point. With Gorkin making three of the five finals to date – and posting a 9 in this one – you can still hear the F-bombs detonating over Brevard County.

Of course, the contest is just the capper on a full seven days of surfing action, even if the bulk took place outside the water, the best example being Sean Slater's 40th Birthday bash last Tuesday. As part of Volcom's Dark Bar tour, Daniel Terry and Jack Morrissey chose the quintessentially dank and smoky '{{{Oasis}}}' in Melbourne – aka the Iron Lung Lounge – then opened the tab to celebrate the elder Slates' inevitable stagger toward the casket, best emphasized by the all-black dress code. Meanwhile, Slater took his inflatable walker to newer lewder places to the delight of loc-dogs like Alek Parker and Tommy O'Brien, visiting Floridians such as Asher Nolan, and Jody Davis, foreigners (Ricky Whitlock), industry dudes (Ryan Divel, PT and Jye Townend) plus a homegrown super-heat of Brevard's best circa '96, such as Cam Anderson, Jeremy Saukel and Bryan Hewitson. Somewhere after the fiftieth Jager shot things got blurry, but there was word of late-night nudity in the bar and some even later night portrait shoots thereafter. (May the tween never meet.) And in the end it was a worthy salute to the nine-time world champion of Central Florida nightlife as he reaches four decades with no signs of slowing.

And it may have been the only concrete case of a surfing power not slowing in these economic times. Maybe the booby bars were blowing up. Perhaps the Mickey {{{Avalon}}} show went supersonic, but none of the industry functions we saw felt like the opening licks to a full-volume contest and tradeshow crescendo. Last year's ESM/Surfing mag spontaneous combustion BBQ finished with PT and Layla doing the Lambada in the living room. This year? The salsa stayed in the kitchen. And the annual gathering at casa de Jones – as in Justin and Blake — also was more of a casual get-together than a pre-'QS rager. Mostly competitors like Nolan, Gony Zubizarreta, Nick Rupp, Philip Watters, Granger Clark, Michael Dunphy and Chris Abad. Hanging out and having fun. But hardly hyping up.

No surprise then Surf {{{Expo}}} was just as subdued Booths were half the size or non-existent. Silicon peaks were at an all-time low. Not only could you walk down the aisle – you could skateboard through it. (Good thing since the vert ramp was gone.) Of course, everyone expected as much — Lost went as far as to print shirts that said "Where'd everybody go?" — but several vendors reported actual business stayed busy. So, perhaps the missing mobs were just groms and badge stealers — people the everyone complained were in the way and made the show feel like a mix between a rave and a fire drill gone terribly wrong. Or maybe this is one of those necessary contractions that strips away the glitz and hangers on and leaves the only the survivors, the truly desperate and the delusional. The question now is: which is which? By this time next year, we'll likely have our answers.

Fashion Show / Bikini Highlights from past ASR Events Below: