By Chas Smith
The hot action started early this cold morning. At nine. And it started across the spit at Lagido, the contest's official alternative site. It is alternative like Pearl Jam. The Red Hot Chili Peppers were playing on the sound system. Californication.
The reason for alternative venue was wind related. Offshore always trumps onshore and it was offshore all day at Lagido.
And it was cold. A slate grayness floated high in the sky, refusing to budge until the mid-afternoon. Sometimes it spat rain. Most the time it just floated, refreshing the sunburns of yesterday's spectators.
Lagido was set up to host the party properly. There were coffee tents and VIP areas and Turismo de Portugal banners. It felt like a music festival. Kids were skipping school and adults skipping work. There were attractive youth wandering around distributing cell phone swag.
And it was a party. A smattering of surf celebrities mingled. Rabbit Bartholomew, hair as slicked as it is grey. Healthy and full bodied, jogged by after an early session. Doug "Claw" Warbrick laughed gregariously. Martin Potter spoke with Dave Mailman about last night's drinking. And this morning's hangover. Mailman, yes. Pottz, no.
Portuguese cultural celebrities mixed in. The Jardim family was represented. They are tabloid fodder in Portugal. Well-bred, well read and well fed. The daughter wore cowboy boots over tights and large glasses. She smiled as the flashbulbs popped. The mayor of Peniche is ever present and on this day the mayor of Mundaka was present as well. The mayor of Peniche wore a Rip Curl Search t-shirt. The mayor of Mundaka a black Billabong Pro t-shirt.
The beach filled up as the day progressed. Townsfolk and tourists enjoying the loose vibe. Children, adults, the elderly. It seemed that the Portuguese are honest surf fans. They would clap when any surfer strung together a series hacks. They would moan when any surfer got caught up in the lip and crashed. They clapped for Nic Muscroft. They clapped for Timmy Reyes. And when they weren't clapping or moaning they were drinking coffee or beer. One couple danced samba to a Gavin Rossdale single.
There was surf to clap for. It came in over the horizon, groomed by the consistent offshore breezes. Long walls breaking off a reef point. The right was mushy, the left lined up. The surfers always went left. Just overhead with room to gouge. It looked a bit slow and there were no sections for hi-fi punting but there was plenty of room for smooth. Roy Powers was smooth when he beat Dayyan Neve. Bruno Santos when he beat Mick Campbell.
Dean Morrison surfed one of the better heats. He was pitted against local hero Justin Mujica but used a series of swooping backhand arcs to depose him. He chose the right waves.
It is always about choosing the right waves.
Drew Courtney chose the right waves as well and beat Dustin Barca in the highest scoring heat of the day. He hacked and hacked and hacked, garnering an 8.2 and a 7.8 on his last two rides. An impressive showing for the elderly rookie. A downcast Barca exited the scene quickly. Drew looked relieved. He is on the bubble like many and hoping to get through more heats in Portugal.
It appeared fun all day. During some heats there were substantial lulls, but overall it was inviting. The sort of surf that would put a smile on your face as you zipped your wetsuit. I asked Rip Curl's Neil Ridgway if he was pleased with the event so far. He answered, "Yeah, you know. You always need a little bit of luck with these things but the surf has been good the last few days and everyone is having a good time."
Martin Potter had had a good time the night before with commentator Dave Mailman. They drank the local brew, baga ceria. It is made from crushed grapes and has a ridiculous alcohol content. I will be drinking it tonight. And arm wrestling Brodie Carr.
REMAINING RIP CURL PRO SEARCH ROUND 1 RESULTS:
Heat 9: Dean Morrison (AUS) 12.50 def. Justin Mujica (PRT) 10.34
Heat 10: Bruno Santos (BRA) 14.67 def. Mick Campbell (AUS) 12.76
Heat 11: Michael Picon (FRA) 13.16 def. Chris Ward (USA) 8.73
Heat 12: Roy Powers (HAW) 14.17 def. Dayyan Neve (AUS) 11.00
Heat 13: Tim Reyes (USA) 12.00 def. Jay Thompson (AUS) 10.87
Heat 14: Nic Muscroft (AUS) 13.66 def. Josh Kerr (AUS) 6.00
Heat 15: Greg Emslie (ZAF) 15.67 def. Aritz Aranburu (EUK) 11.40
Heat 16: Drew Courtney (AUS) 17.17 def. Dustin Barca (HAW) 16.70
RIP CURL PRO SEARCH ROUND 2 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 1: C.J. Hobgood (USA) vs. Nathaniel Curran (USA)
Heat 2: Jordy Smith (ZAF) vs. Roy Powers (HAW)
Heat 3: Tom Whitaker (AUS) vs. Heitor Alves (BRA)
Heat 4: Bede Durbidge (AUS) vs. Marlon Lipke (DEU)
Heat 5: Bobby Martinez (USA) vs. Nic Muscroft (AUS)
Heat 6: Taylor Knox (USA) vs. Drew Courtney (AUS)
Heat 7: Adrian Buchan (AUS) vs. Kai Otton (AUS)
Heat 8: Joel Parkinson (AUS) vs. Bruno Santos (BRA)
Heat 9: Kelly Slater (USA) vs. Owen Wright (AUS)
Heat 10: Dane Reynolds (USA) vs. Dean Morrison (AUS)
Heat 11: Taj Burrow (AUS) vs. Michael Picon (FRA)
Heat 12: Damien Hobgood (USA) vs. Greg Emslie (ZAF)
Heat 13: Mick Fanning (AUS) vs. Patrick Gudauskas (USA)
Heat 14: Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) vs. Ben Dunn (AUS)
Heat 15: Adriano de Souza (BRA) vs. Jihad Khodr (BRA)
Heat 16: Kieren Perrow (AUS) vs. Tim Reyes (USA)