A Bugs Eye View

Girls Battle at Rip Curl Festival while Guys Prepare for Boost Mobile Pro

Kelly Slater will look to make his 4th consecutive Boost Mobile Pro final
The main touring party contesting the Men's WQS are in a 5 week hiatus, the last of the 6 Star's winding up with last weeks Buondi Billabong Pro in Portugal. The European leg is still grinding along with the 4 Star Movistar Pantin Classic and the Men's and Women's major leagues are set to blast back into action.

The girls are in the starting blocks in Santander, Spain, awaiting the starters gun at the Rip Curl Girls Festival, while the Foster's ASP World Tour is in the launching pad, the guys readying for a major showdown in the Boost Mobile Pro presented by Hurley, the waiting period of which begins this Sunday, September 9, and runs thru to 15th.

With Sam Cornish triumphing in Brazil she has neatly wedged herself between frontrunners Stephanie Gilmore and Chelsea Hedges. The pair were locked together for the past four months, each posting a 1st & 5th in the Aussie leg, but with Steph hauling herself onto the podium at the Billabong Girls Pro Brazil and Chelsea getting herself lodged in the 5th zone again, Stephanie was able to draw a bit of daylight into the World Title picture she's working on.

While seemingly unfancied in most title calculations Samantha Cornish has ascended nicely, opening her account with a lacklustre 9th at Snapper but then racking up a 3rd at Bells and a win in Brazil. She is well in the hunt as we settle into event #4 of a 7 event Women's Tour. Brazilian star Silvana Lima has the leaders nicely checked as well, a disappointing 9th at Bells blotting a near perfect score card featuring a 2nd & 3rd place finish. The only other surfer with two Top 3 finishes is Rebecca Woods, who can well and truly still challenge for the crown if she limits her 07 record to the solitary 9th she has on the ledger.

Word from Santander is that a 1.5 metre swell is on the build and with a delightful array of “V” shaped banks on offer; we should see a scintillating Rip Curl Girls Festival. Lurking just outside the Top 5 are former World Champion Sofia Mulanovich and reigning 7 times ASP World Champion Layne Beachley. Both have had a somewhat up and down season thus far, but write them off at your own peril because a win at Santander would see one of these do a Sam Cornish and bolt into the reckoning.

World #6 Damien Hobgood is a shock withdrawal from the upcoming Boost Mobile Pro presented by Hurley. In a devastating case of deja vu, Damo has succumbed to a nagging injury incurred in Chile. He competed unsuccessfully at J/Bay, was an early casualty, and today his manager Mitch Varnes informed Tour Manager Renato Hickel that Hobgood would be definitely out for Trestles and Hossegor, and will probably miss Mundaka. With only two throwaways in 07, and with Damo already knocking up a 33rd at J/Bay, this injury setback will be a cruel blow to his campaign.

The real bummer is that it is a nightmare revisited. In 2005 Damo set himself up for a title tilt only to be destroyed at Teahupoo trying to run down a rampant Kelly Slater in the Final. Even with a 2nd place finish he zoomed to World #2 but the sight of him getting whizzed into the doctors by jet ski was a serious omen. Sure enough he missed enough events to knock him out of the Kelly/Andy battle, but Damo returned to magnificent form on his return. He will again suffer a ratings freefall but should still qualify in the Top 27. If not Damo will be an injury wildcard certainty but let's hope he can recover in time to make a difference at the end.

So that's the bad news. The good news is that all the other title aspirants and Top 45er's are chomping at the bit to get back into the fray. The boys who haven't been slugging it out in the WQS trench land have enjoyed a 6 week break following J/Bay, and while it's all well and good to jag a thousand nice barrels in the Mentawais, everyone's ready to get back to their day job on the Dream Tour. It is nice to have that mid season break, things get pretty torrid from here on out, this series of three back to back events at Trestles, Hossegor and Mundaka will go a long way to determining the World Title picture.

It is a bummer to see one of the main aspirants retire injured but be assured that Mick, Taj, Andy, Kelly and Parko will fight tooth and nail for every centimetre of ground. World domination may be the primary objective but it will be the short strokes that count over these three events. Fanning is obviously in the box seat, nothing less then 3rd over the first 5 events, but as shown at J/Bay, it will be the incremental centimetres that make the difference from here on in.

Here's how it works. Of the 10 events on the Foster's ASP World Tour, the Top 8 count towards year end ranking. Mick has such a superior strike rate that there are only two ways to whittle down his lead. Either he slips up early in consecutive events and has a mini crash or finishes either 3rd or 5th while the others post 1st & 2nds. It is the hare and the tortoise story, but only if Mick stops to pick the daffodils while the others grind away down the yellow brick road. He is very close to possessing his own destiny but has yet to crack a Finals berth in the Boost while the others have nailed big results.

Taj was in career best form at J/Bay, of all his career wins this was the most emphatic, featuring blitzing comebacks, awe inspiring blow for blows and a Finals shut-out. Significantly he has also broken thru for a career first multiple win season. This is the kind of psychological boost that can drive a man towards title glory, it will be insanely interesting to see what kind of form he brings to the Boost Mobile Pro presented by Hurley. Andy, Kelly and Parko are all mathematical possibilities and have all won at Trestles and have all strung together a searing run of top results in this upcoming three event leg.

Sofia Mulanovich is looking to get herself back into the world title race in Spain
That's what makes all this so intriguing, and once again it is the incremental factor that dominates pre event thinking. Andy shanked a 33rd at Snapper, got that out of his system with a 2,5,1,5 run and is actually just a tad closer to the leaders on adjusted points due to having a lower throwaway. Kelly and Parko are most in need of a breakthrough win. Both have been in excellent form without getting the big reward. It's like when Tiger is blowing them away on the fairways but not sinking the putts. So the delivery is fine, it's just a matter of putting it all together and bringing all elements of their game on match day.

The defending champion is Bede Durbidge. After posting his maiden tour victory the young Queenslander used his Boost win as a platform to step it up in 07. This was achieved at the season opener where he won a close points decision against Kelly for the privilege of taking Mick Fanning on in the Quiksilver Pro Final. Bede comes into the Boost Mobile Pro at a very respectable #7, he has established solid Top 10 credentials and will never again be the dark horse who shook the world by defeating the 8 times World Champion in last years final. A wonderful story. Danny Wills, Dean Morrison and Travis Logie round out the Big 10 and are all in career best form.

Add to this star studded mix wildcards of the calibre of Jordy Smith, Dane Reynolds and Rob Machado and we have one explosive brew. Each of these guys are capable of smashing anyone. Jordy and Dane have been wildcards before but for the first time will enter a World Championship event with the knowledge they have qualified for next year's entire tour. This is a major change in mindset. They have nothing to lose, so no change there, but now they can honestly say they belong, which is a massive shift. Dane Reynold's has been reluctant to take wildcards recently because he did not want to mess with anyone's campaign, but next year he gets to mess with everyone's.

Wow, what a thriller. This is one very cool event, the Boost Mobile Pro presented by Hurley. Do not miss this web cast.

For more on both the Foster’s ASP World Tour and the ASP Women’s World Tour, visit www.ASPWorldTour.com