“I’m not surfing that,” said Joel Parkinson firmly.

You could almost feel the dismay rising from the hastily erected Greenmount Point contest site, a half mile down the line from Snapper Rocks. Phil Macdonald and Bobby Martinez, the first Quik Pro heat to run in four days, and 20 minutes into it neither surfer had even caught a wave, because it wasn’t bloody breaking.

“I’m not surfing it!” repeated Parko, without raising his voice. “Go and look at Duranbah!”

Duranbah is the wedgy, short-form beachbreak just south of Snapper that Gold Coast, Queensland surfers have been replying on for generations when their fabled points go pffft. Today, it turned into the second choice location for a contest whose first choices are splattered all over Rainbow Bay.

The ocean is playing merry hell with this event. For two of those three off-days, the whole weekend in fact, a storm of category two hurricane dimensions sat 120 miles north-east of the Gold Coast and blew down 40 knots of wind, half a dozen inches of rain, and 10-12 feet of swell. The surf was insane, massive walls blasting down the wide sandbars off Snapper and Kirra and Currumbin, but if your best mate didn’t have a jetski, you did a lot of work for your waves. And if you were a WCT event with a weather-prone webcast, you couldn’t do anything about it at all.

If your best mate DID have a jetski, man! you came back with some war stories. Kelly Slater and mate Trevor Hendy towed a sandbar a half mile offshore, and the surf-saturated Goldie media freaked out. “Surf Legends Lost At Sea!” the TV news bellowed, only to back down a few minutes later when word came through that they weren’t lost, they were just going surfing. Off Snapper Rocks on Saturday morning, Parko pulled into one, glided off the back, and found himself caught inside by a wave he later struggled to describe. “I’ve got no trouble calling it 15 feet plus,” he said. “Man, I was glad I had my vest on. And I’m glad there wasn’t another wave behind it.”

Off Stradbroke Island to the north, a wave buoy read a swell at just over 17 metres – the biggest ever recorded off Australia’s east coast.

These storms move fast. Less than 48 hours down the track and it was over. The Superbank was Superbuggered, its excessively famous sand line blown to pieces. It’s so creamed, there’s no realistic chance of another Snapper day this waiting period.

Event director Rod Brooks finally did the only thing he could and took Parko’s advice. The sun was out, the wind gently puffing out of the seabreeze north-east angle, and the first real money round heats of the 2006 WCT were underway in a three-foot beachbreak.

It’s hard to read form in such surf, but here’s who showed it:

Bobby Martinez. Bobby’s lovely style is balm to the eyes of the judges, who haven’t seen such goofyfooted sweetness since Rob Machado. Yet Bobby’s also driven and he drove right past Phil Macca. Phil’s always thrived on his former underdog status, but now he’s in the top five, and Bobby’s the underdog.

Parko. The real Joel has been missing from the tour for over a year, maybe longer, partly due to parenthood, partly due to filming duties for his Dog-movie. That Joel showed up today to dismantle Peterson Rosa with two easily executed rides. His second scoring ride, a very deep tube followed by a huge frontside air, earned a 9.0 and may have been underscored at that. Parko and Bobby will meet in round four and it will be Sick.

Jake Paterson and Troy Brooks spent the Swell towing each other into 10-12 foot bombs at Currumbin. At three foot Duranbah, Troy’s mad air routine put him way out in front of Pato’s tail-tweaky snaps. Troy is quietly dangerous at this event.

Bruce Irons in the past has tended to lose interest in contests in bad waves. This year he’s clearly got other ideas, and got off to a great start with a monumental frontside ultra-punt. The judges didn’t chicken out and gave him a 9-plus, which is what the move deserved. Bruce is in form, but it didn’t stop him being beaten by an utterly furious and amazing closing ride from Raoni Monteiro, a ride Raoni must have dredged up from all his years of WQS beachbreak slop events. Don’t panic, Bruce, just remember the backup wave next time.

And oh yeah, Andy and Kelly! Only the best surfers here. Can’t forget them. They pulled rookies and dumped ’em out of the draw.

Kelly dummied his way through a heat with France’s Mickey Picon, who may not know it, but who had a real shot at knackering the Champ. KS7’s surfing OK, but on Saturday he got a 10-second tube on a 12-foot wave, which might have made it hard to focus on onshore two-footers today. Mickey gave up during a big move on a long left, then finished with a skilfully whipped right; if he’d made the left into a score, he’d have given the beach crowd a collective hernia. An aggressive attack might be all it takes.

AI on the other hand played his heat with David Weare like a competitor working into real form. There’s way too much of this contest left to run, and there’s way too little likely swell to run it in, but beating Andy will take more than aggression, it’ll take wave luck, poise, and big, big moves.

Heat One: 1 Bobby Martinez 16.00, 2 Phil Macdonald 13.33
Heat Two: 1 Joel Parkinson 18.17, 2 Peterson Rosa 14.50
Heat Three: 1 Troy Brooks 16.17, 2 Jake Paterson 9.40
Heat Four: 1 Damien Hobgood 13.5, 2 Roy Powers 8.33
Heat Five: 1 Greg Emslie 13.67, 2 Nathan Hedge 9.77
Heat Six: 1 Raoni Monteiro 14.33, 2 Bruce Irons 14.17
Heat Seven: 1 Travis Logie 12.33, 2 Paulo Moura 9.77
Heat {{{Eight}}}: 1 Kelly Slater 13.34, 2 Mikael Picon 10.{{{90}}}
Heat Nine: 1 Andy Irons 14.83, 2 David Weare 6.8STILL TO RUN:
Heat Ten: Tom Whitaker vs Danny Wills
Heat Eleven: Taj Burrow vs Toby Martin
Heat Twelve: {{{CJ}}} Hobgood vs Marcelo Nunes
Heat Thirteen: Mick Fanning vs Pancho Sullivan
Heat Fourteen: Dean Morrison vs Taylor Knox
Heat Fifteen: Trent Munro vs Adriano de Souza
Heat Sixteen: Cory Lopez vs Darren O’Rafferty