A Bugs Eye View

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With the Billabong Pro Mundaka looking to kick off at Sopelana, it might be timely to gaze at possibilities other than the bleeding obvious. The huge focus is squarely on Kelly's magic number, and with an uncharacteristic runner-up in the Quiksilver Pro France, the hunt for Nine Red October moves to the picturesque Basque Coast.

With the guys all guaranteed three throwaways in this year's eleven-event tour, the adjusted ratings now show a truer indication of how everyone is traveling. The Billabong Pro Mundaka is in fact the ninth event, so the boys are looking to displace their lowest single event points yield with something more substantial to boost stocks. Everyone who has pretty much secured their tour pass for '09 is now either looking for consolidation or ascension, particularly seeing that end-of-year bonuses are directly linked to ASP ratings.

Adrian Buchan's maiden victory at Hossegor came at a very opportune time in his season, if not his life. After four events, the young Central Coast NSW goofy-footer was traveling very comfortably, having posted three Top 10 finishes, but then the mid year rot set in, a couple 17ths and a shock 33rd at Trestles. I {{{recall}}} spending a few hours on the web commentary with Ace at the Boost, he was speaking of Kelly in total awe, yet a week later he put that idolization on the backburner while he surfed a strategic masterpiece in the French final. The win ensconced Adrian back in the Top 10.

The other big mover was Adriano de Souza. The Brazilian #1 was hovering just outside the Big 5 but his second podium finish vaulted de Souza past the Cooly Kids into #4. After a couple building years it looks very much like Brazil may have its first Title contender in 09. Taj and Bede held steady at #2 & #3, but lacklustre results at Hossegor created even more daylight for Kelly. World Champion Mick Fanning is carrying an injury and his 33rd is now compounded by withdrawal from Mundaka.

A pair of impressive 5ths has surged Dane Reynolds into #15. The fact he is carrying two 33rds plus the injury withdrawal from Fiji translates to an incrementally higher average, but only if he can avoid early dismissals from here on in. Former three-times ASP World Champ Andy Irons is in ratings feefall, my call on that is that the guy absolutely detests just going through the motions to make up the numbers, if he ain't contending for the Title or has Top 3 on his radar, the interest falls away rapidly.

Dayyan Neve and Kieren Perrow, courtesy of solid form, have crept into a more comfortable zone over the past three events, Dean Morrison is out for the rest of the year after undergoing hip surgery following Trestles, and Californian warhorse Taylor Knox has moved into a tie for 20th with Timmy Reyes and Jordy Smith, arresting a horrid run with a couple timely ASP Top 10 results. After an absolutly horrific start, compounded by missing his pet event, the Billabong Pro Teahupoo, Damien Hobgood surfed into some great form in the Quiksilver Pro France, knocking up a 3rd place finish to get himself into the qualifying bubble.

To my mind the unluckiest surfer this year has been Tiago Pires. At most contests he has posted some of the highest scores in any round, only to be beaten by an inspired performance. He should have nailed a couple 5ths and 9ths to go along with the impressive Rip Curl Pro Search 3rd, but he finds himself languishing at #32, even though he has been surfing like an ASP Top 10er. Aritz Aranburu has also had some tough luck, he just hasn't been able to show his colours due to struggles with a pre-season injury.

Aritz will be joined in the Billabong Pro Mundaka by fellow Basque surfers Hodei Collazo and Marco San Segundo, so he will finally get to display his wares in front of the home crowd. There is always one event that is decimated by injury withdrawals, and while the fickle finger falls on Mundaka this year, an impressive line-up of wildcards and ASP replacement seeds take on the top seeds in the early going.

While Kelly has come out on the wrong side of one wildcard encounter this year, he may very well face one in the ASP World Title decider at Mundaka. The eight-time ASP World Champion will have to break a pattern if he is to clinch. While it is impressive beyond accolades, Kelly has gone 1,1, 17, then, 1, 1, 17, and now has posted, 1, 2, so will have to break the 17 trend to take it all.

As Billabong Europe Brand Manager Reid Pinder highlighted, the forecast does look promising for the fabled Mundaka, but the trick will be the package – at what point in the event will be deemed possible to bring the Billabong Pro Mundaka to a climax at the primary site.

Be great to have an awesome conclusion to the European leg, good luck to all, there is so much riding on this event.