Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro: Day 3

With the pressure on and the surf approaching 8 feet, Slater, Fanning, and Burrow stay calm, advance to Round 4 and keep the title race in full swing

Conditions: 5-6 foot, bumpy.
Heats run: 7-16 Round 2 and all of Round 3
Predictions: Fanning World Champ or Title showdown at Pipe. Who knows?

As the we get closer to the final day of the Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro, it's all about Mick, Kelly and Taj here at Praia da Vila, Imbituba, Brazil. On the best conditions seen all week – ripable but bumpy 6 foot waves – all three made it through to round 4. And with a probable finish to the contest tomorrow, all eyes are on the contenders for the 2007 World Title.

Nobody seemed to care that Bobby Martinez lost to local Heitor Alves in the first heat of round 3. Or that Taylor Knox was yet another victim of Dayyan Neve's inspired run in Brazil. Even {{{CJ}}} Hobgood's loss to heavyweight Leonardo Neves and Bruce Irons' defeat to South Africa's Ricky Basnett went virtually unnoticed. These were just secondary details to the center stage show.

Kelly has been doing the Kelly thing – looking overly relaxed and not worried with the title race. Last night he sang and played guitar before a selected crowd at a dinner organised by former Top 45 Flavio Padaratz. This morning he was all smiles at the competitor's area, joking around, chatting with Brazilian tennis star Gustavo Kuerten and talking on his phone – as if the heats ahead were not that important. But when he paddled out against wildcard Renato Galvo, it became clear that the gloves are off. Just like in the first round, he surfed a notch better than Fanning, drove the crowd crazy with his immaculate top turns and dominated his heat from start to finish. Afterwards, he went straight to the point. "I'm just hoping Mick loses in the next couple of heats," said the champ. "If I win this year, I'm definetely going for Title number 10."

Meanwhile, Fanning has been keeping to the same routine that took him to the top of the ratings this year. He won't let anything mess with his focus. He doesn't go out and he's always the first to leave the hotel and the first on the beach. Every single morning. Before his heat, he sat on a corner next to his faithful coach, buddy and confidant, Matt Griggs, and analysed every score, every wave. Before hitting the water, he just moved away from everyone, amping up on "Tool". "It's the only band I listen to before a heat," he told Surfing's Photo Editor Steve Sherman. Against local Marco Polo, he surfed with absurd confidence, hitting the lip vertically and doing his trademark carving top turns like it was nothing – and won easily, to the relief of the Rip Curl heavyweights who are in Brazil to witness the possible crowning of their main man. But Fanning's super focused attitude shouldn't be confused with anxiousness. He's not nervous. In his mind, he "knows" he'll win. "I just wanna get the job done already." He wants to win this thing and let his alter-ego Eugene take over.

The third contender, contrary to common sense, might just be the most dangerous. Taj Burrow has been playing smart, pacing his surf, winning his heats and hoping he'll peak just at the right time. Intelligently, he's trying to steer away from the hype and do what he has to to nail the title. "I'm not thinking about points, possibilities or working out the numbers," the West Australian told Surfing. "I just wanna win this event and see what happens in Hawaii."

It's on tomorrow folks. It's just a matter of time before we know if this race goes on to the center of the surfing universe, Pipeline, or if Eugene Fanning will finally make his presence felt in Brazil. Who are you betting on?

Fanning maintained his steady form through to Round 4

(1st advances to Quarters; 2nd finishes =9th)
Heat # 1: Michael Campbell v. Heitor Alves
Heat # 2: Joel Parkinson v. Rodrigo Dornelles
Heat # 3: Neco Padaratz v. Dayyan Neve
Heat # 4: Mick Fanning v. Luke Stedman
Heat # 5: Kelly Slater v. Kai Otton
Heat # 6: Shaun Cansdell v. Leonardo Neves
Heat # 7: Taj Burrow v. Ricky Basnett
Heat # 8: Bede Durbidge v. Tom Whitaker

(1st advances to Rnd 4; 2nd finishes =17th)
Heat # 1: Heitor Alves def. Bobby Martinez
Heat # 2: Michael Campbell def. Cory Lopez
Heat # 3: Rodrigo Dornelles def. Adriano de Souza
Heat # 4: Joel Parkinson def. Jihad Khodr
Heat # 5: Dayyan Neve def. Taylor Knox
Heat # 6: Neco Padaratz def. Dean Morrison
Heat # 7: Luke Stedman def. Adrian Buchan
Heat # 8: Mick Fanning def. Marco Polo
Heat # 9: Kelly Slater def. Renato Galvao
Heat #10: Kai Otton def. Phil MacDonald
Heat #11: Shaun Cansdell def. Jeremy Flores
Heat #12: Leonardo Neves def. CJ Hobgood
Heat #13: Taj Burrow def. William Cardoso
Heat #14: Ricky Basnett def. Bruce Irons
Heat #15: Bede Durbidge def. Gabe Kling
Heat #16: Tom Whitaker def. Raoni Monteiro


Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro: Day 2

Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro: Day 1

Inside Brazil – Day 2 Photo Gallery

Inside Brazil – Day 1 Photo Gallery

The Branding Of A Champion: Mick Fanning