Upsets and underdogs pave the way for the final.

SURF: 8-10 ft. and friggin’ beautiful. Pure sunshine.
EVENTS HELD: Round of 64 and first four heats of 32.
NATURE’S CALL: I love you.
PREDICTIONS: But will you still respect me in the morning?

Let’s talk about Bruce Irons. In a day dominated by upsets and underdogs, let’s talk about the guy who is neither. Undisputed as one of surfing’s most progressive innovators, the younger Irons brother has had his difficulties with contests. His freshman year on the pro tour has been less than impressive and his requalifying back-up program fairly nonchalant. Today, however, highlighted a more “contest oriented” Bruce. When the waves in his heat never really fired up, Bruce floated inside, worked some smaller ones for a couple of 6s, then cruised back out to muscle his way out of a closeout tube-ride for an 8. Nothing amazing. Just good contest surfing. Winning heats. Moving forward. Good work, Bruce.

Now for the bad news. Major casualties. Three-time world champ Tom Curren narrowly missed advancing when last year’s event winner Troy Brooks threaded a dramatic four-second tunnel in the final seconds of their heat. Brooks was then eliminated in his next heat. Six-time world champ Kelly Slater missed his plane. Three-time world champ Andy Irons missed the good waves. Futures US ‘CTers Chris Ward, Fred Patacchia and Roy Powers were all eliminated (putting the latter two on qualification thin ice). Jersey hopeful Dean Randazzo lost. Dean Morrison lost. Shane Beschen lost. These things happen..

The crowd is definitely getting thinner now. And today, the underdogs had their turn. World junior champ Adriano de Souza continued his winning streak. Frenchman Eric Rebiere made the Quarterfinals, along with Brazilians Paulo Moura and BernardoPigmeu. And local standout Nathan Carroll continues to put up some of the contest’s best rides.

But all this irrelevant to anyone who’s seen the fire in Sunny Garcia’s eyes this event. Sunny absolutely dominated both his heats today through sheer force of will, through vicious, passionate power surfing. Unflinching, determined and raw. Sure, a lot can happen between here and the final (just ask Andy), but if were over today…

Well, it isn’t.

But it will be tomorrow.

Quarters, Semis and the Final, coming up.