Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro: Day 1

Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro, Brazil: Day One
The Title Countdown Begins

Conditions: 2-3 foot, sunny
Heats run: 1-9 Round 1
Predictions: slightly bigger waves and a new World Champ crowned

After four long days of total flatness and no action, the first 9 heats of Round 1 of the Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro finally went down at Praia da Vila, Imbituba, Brazil, before a loud crowd of 6.000 spectators.

The conditions were only marginally better today compared to the previous four, but with five days left on the waiting period and still four full days of competition to be completed, organizers had no option but to start the contest that will most likely crown this year's World Champ.

Ratings leader Mick Fanning had a convincing win on heat 8, downing local wildcard Guga Arruda and an apparently uninterested Bruce Irons. Appearing very relaxed and focused at the same time, Fanning showed no signs of the huge pressure he's under right now. If he doesn't clinch the title in Brazil, he might just give Slater and Taj Burrow, the two other contenders, the opening they're desperately hoping for. The younger of the Irons bros, on the other hand, is currently ranked 30th on the Foster's ASP Tour and is in dire need of a strong result to qualify for next year's WCT.

{{{Eight}}}-time world champ Kelly Slater surfed the last heat of the day and completely destroyed the tiny waves on hand, just before sunset. Slater showed just how determined he is to steal the show and win title number 9, posting the highest heat score of the day, 18.07, with no difficulty. When Slater left the water, he was surrounded by hundreds of crazed fans and had to jump a fence to get back into the competitor’s area and into “safety”. “It looked like the day I won my 7th title here. The energy of the crowd here isunlike any other in the world.” Whoever said The Champ wasn't focused on winning the crown anymore, got it wrong.

But the beginning of the day also had some interesting moments. Just before the start, Cory Lopez and Fred Pattachia, unimpressed by the conditions, made their opinions heard by organizers and the contest was almost postponed for another day. The deliberations went on for a while. So much so, that the event started one hour later than planned.

Lopez, who was on the very first heat, came last to small wave wizard Heitor Alves and heat winner Dean Morrison. Freddie P. also came short against wildcard Simo Romo and Taylor Knox. Known for his aggressive tactics in the water, Romo pushed too hard for a wave that belonged to Knox and was penalised with a paddle interference. Knox and the youngster exchanged words in the water and later in the post-heat interview, the Californian said "Romo has to learn that the WCT is a whole different game."

Heat 4 saw probable "Rookie of the Year" Jeremy Flores put on a immaculate display of sharp rail-to-rail surfing. Flores was in tune with the conditions and left no chance for South Africa's Ricky Basnett and veteran wildcard Fabio Gouveia.

Heat 6 was the most disputed, with Bobby Martinez, Phil MacDonald and yet another wildcard, Renato Galvo, going wave for wave. In the end the local boy came out on top, leaving the water with a big smile on his face and under a stand-up ovation from the crowd.

Joel Parkinson was very selective in his heat against Diego Rosa and aussie Adrian Buchan, and the strategy paid off. Parko only surfed an handful of waves, but managed to score 15.10 out of 20 with a decent display of hacks and airs on the right-handers.

With conditions predicted to rise tomorrow, it's very likely that organizers will finish Round 1 and possibly even Round 2. Hold on to your seats, because in a few days we'll have a new World Champ – or the beginning of what would go down as one of surfing's biggest upsets.

Mick Fanning makes his way through the crowd

Hang Loose Catarina Pro Round 1 Results:
Heat 1: Dean Morrison (AUS) 14.50, Heitor Alves (BRA) 12.83, Cory Lopez (USA) 8.73
Heat 2: Rodrigo Dornelles (BRA) 14.{{{80}}}, Pancho Sullivan (HAW) 10.23, Jihad Khodr (BRA) 6.23
Heat 3: Taylor Knox (USA) 10.80, Fred Patacchia (HAW) 10.50, Simao Romao (BRA) 9.65
Heat 4: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 16.16, Fabio Gouveia (BRA) 8.23, Ricky Basnett (ZAF) 5.94
Heat 5: William Cordoso (BRA) 14.17, Bede Durbidge (AUS) 12.86, Greg Emslie (ZAF) 12.43
Heat 6: Renato Galvao (BRA) 15.50, Phil Macdonald (AUS) 12.93, Bobby Martinez (USA) 12.77
Heat 7: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 15.10, Diego Rosa (BRA) 12.16, Adrian Buchan (AUS) 11.67
Heat 8: Mick Fanning (AUS) 15.67, Guga Arruda (BRA) 12.74 Bruce Irons (HAW) 7.83,
Heat 9: Kelly Slater (USA) 18.07, Kai Otton (AUS) 11.63, Fabio Carvalho (BRA) 11.37

Remaining Hang Loose Catarina Pro Round 1 Match-Ups:
Heat 10: Taj Burrow (AUS), Luke Stedman (AUS), Marco Polo (BRA)
Heat 11: {{{CJ}}} Hobgood (USA), Raioni Monteiro (BRA), Peterson Rosa (BRA)
Heat 12: Tom Whitaker (AUS), Bernardo Miranda (BRA), Gabe Kling (USA)
Heat 13: Michael Campbell (AUS), Leonardo Neves (BRA), Mark Occhilupo (AUS)
Heat 14: Royden Bryson (ZAF), Josh Kerr (AUS), Shaun Cansdell (AUS)
Heat 15: Chris Ward (USA), Troy Brooks (AUS), Dayyan Neve (AUS)
Heat 16: Adriano de Souza (BRA), Neco Padaratz (BRA), Victor Ribas (BRA)


Inside Brazil: Day 1 Photo Gallery

The Branding Of A Champion: Mick Fanning

Gilmore wins the Mancora Peru Classic