By Travis Ferré
Photographs by Jimmicane
"You see that tub?" Dane Reynolds asks as two guys carry a porcelain Jacuzzi-sized bathtub towards the scaffolding at the Rip Curl Pro. "I heard there's gonna be a girl in a bikini sitting in that, interviewing the winner of each heat," he says, holding back his patented beaver grin. "Probably rumors."
Dusty Payne is next to Dane drinking a white mocha. He is wearing a hooded sweatshirt, jeans and Nike 6.0 flip-flops. His feet are visibly freezing in the crisp Victorian air. He wiggles them periodically.
Dusty and Dane are lodging together during the event. The pairing seems to have had a beneficial effect on the Hawaiian rookie: he appears calm and relaxed, a dramatic shift from the mannerisms he displayed at the season opener on the Gold Coast, where he was visibly apprehensive. Here, he's making jokes. He's glowing, even jovial, sipping his white mocha. He's toting the royal blue gift bag given to all contest participants. That bag, handed out to competitors upon check-in, is filled with a variety of sponsor products including Jim Beam & cola in a can, several trucker hats and other various forms of schwag. Earlier this morning, Chris Davidson received his goody bag (at around 7:30 a.m.), removed the Jim Beam & cola can, snapped it and slugged it right there. "He was trying to shock the girl who was handing the bags out," Tanner Gudauskas later told me. "It worked." Davo is awesome. He later helped his fellow Narrabean local Davey Cathels celebrate his birthday at the local pub with a few "Avatars" -- an electric cocktail filled with fun.
Back at the contest site, Andy Irons spent the morning beneath a large sweatshirt hood gazing at the lineup. He was hanging with fellow Hawaiians Fred Patacchia and Kekoa Bacalso. He looked amused watching Kekoa strut around in black shoes, black socks, black shorts and a very slick black leather jacket. Kekoa stole the show this morning. "Brah, we're outta here," he finally stated with a chuckle, throwing his wetsuit in the trunk of his car. "We're bringing an army to that beachbreak up the coast." He peeled out of the lot, laughing.
Conditions on the opening morning of the event featured small waves at the main site, and most surfers ventured out to find more surf up or down the coast. Bells and Winkipop, the two neighboring points where the contest can run, featured light onshore crumble and a slow, choppy start for the first two rounds of the women's event. Chelsea Hedges, Sally Fitzgibbons, Coco Ho, Carissa Moore and Steph Gilmore all shined on day one.
Making my way through the parking lot I saw local wildcard and last year's runner-up Adam Robertson stroll past looking spirited. He might be the nicest dude alive -- and is still somehow without a major sponsor. Maybe Target will sponsor him. Someone should.
Gabriel Medina, the 15-year-old Brazilian phenom and Rip Curl's sponsor wildcard, was demonstrating his legitimacy at Winkipop this morning with full-rotation spins. Freaking people out. Stuart Kennedy, winner of last week's WQS O'Neill Coldwater Classic in Tasmania, is the other sponsor's wildcard. Neither should be on your fantasy team yet, but both will no doubt put on a show if given the opportunity.
Back in the competitors' parking lot, amid hoards of camera crews and webcast technicians, I hear, "Let's meet up later." Looking up, I see Dusty Payne holding up a double shaka as he and Dane peel out of the parking lot to go find waves up the coast. Waves aren't forecast to bump up until this weekend. Stay tuned as the horseplay commences. The contest is off for the day.