Surfers from around the globe have unanimously declared that the world famous 'Superbank' at Snapper Rocks, main event site for the Quiksilver Pro presented by Boost Mobile, and Roxy Pro presented by Boost Mobile, is as good as it gets. Reigning World Champions Andy Irons and Sofia Mulanovich testified to the fact heading a star-studded lineup of Foster's Men's Top 45 and Women's Top 17 surfers fielding questions from a bustling media contingent at a press conference this morning.

The well-attended function officially launched the events' 13 day waiting period, with the two main events on standby from Tuesday morning. Concurrently, the mens' and womens' trials were out in the water, alternately running through triple round-robin rounds to reach a winner in each division. The victor in both the men's and women's divisions go on into the respective main event draws.

Reigning world champion Andy Irons (Hawaii) heaped praise on the incredible sand banks that sculpture the swell saying "They call it the Superbank, but it looks beyond that at the moment - just truly amazing... really, really good. Hopefully we get some swell for it. It's always otherwise packed with so many surfers, but to get to surf it with just one or two other guys out during the Quiksilver Pro is the ultimate. Even to get just one good wave from amongst the crowd is as good as {{{100}}} waves anywhere else."

"I'm excited about the event," agreed WCT runner-up from 2004 Joel Parkinson (Australia). "The sand looks to be as good as it gets. If we get some swell it should be a tube-fest out there. I feel like I have to put in a full year this season. I'm very focussed and I think I've placed just enough pressure on myself. I think this is my year!"

"It's breaking out further than it normally does," continued Parkinson "so local knowledge behind the rock will not be as critical. It's a fair playing field, and I'll be giving it 110%. If the swell is in-between three and five foot, it should be an unbelievable contest."

Defending event champions Michael Lowe (Australia) and Jacqueline Silva (Brazil) were also on hand, expressing their fervent desires to successfully defend their respective titles.

"I love Snapper Rocks, and I'm here to do a good job here this year," said Silva.

"It's great to come back to where we get some of the best waves all year. I brought back many good boards from my shaper Jeff Bushman in Hawaii, and if anything, will have trouble picking which one of a good bunch to ride," said Lowe after being presented with his 2004 trophy at the conference this morning.

Former six-time world champion Kelly Slater (USA), who continues to draw much of the media's attention, confessed he had been out of the water for a few days after waking up late last week with a pinched nerve in his neck. He also added that he had not even ridden the quiver of boards he had landed in Australia with.

Wildcard Dane Reynolds (USA) was also on the front table fielding questions and revealed that he had been out of the water short-term as well. The forever maturing young Californian who caused a major upset when he eliminated Andy Irons from the second round of the Boost Mobile Pro, Presented by Quiksilver, at Trestles last September, is a potential threat for any WCT surfer. Fellow wildcard and Gold Coast local Luke Munro is also a hot wildcard potentially capable of flushing any opposition.

"I'm not worried about having been out of the water, because I know what the waves are like out there and I'm ready to jump back on," said Reynolds. "I'm stoked to get another wildcard here, but my main focus this year will be on getting a few results on the 'QS and getting into a good ratings and seedings position to have a good shot at making the cut".

The focus was of course on this year's contenders for both the men's and women's crowns, as well as who was going to start their season with a win.

"I consider Parko as my biggest threat – before Kelly," responded Andy to the press gallery question. "It's going to be another tough year. It gets nerve-racking with everyone gunning for you, but I'm dealing with it."

"I'm glad to see my brother Bruce starting this year with a clean slate. I think it's a realisticgoal for him to be aiming for the Top 16 this year. His talent is undisputed, but last year he fell apart in heats. This year he'll start putting it together" concluded Andy.

When asked whom she considered to be a threat to her ASP Women's World Champion title, Sofia Mulanovich (Peru) was typically uncommitted. With her runner-up Rochelle Ballard (Hawaii) and the 2004 WQS champion and media's darling Chelsea Georgeson (Australia) all stoked as close friends, there seems virtually no spite amongst the fancied trio. No doubt, the Roxy Pro Presented by Boost Mobile will still be a showcase of the best women's surfing ever.

"I just love watching good surfing, and there was lots of it last year, and this year is going to be tough for all," said Sofia.

"It was good to watch my best friend win her world title," said Chelsea "and to see my other best friend come in runner-up. I've been living on the Gold Coast for 18 months now and surfing non-stop, so I'm feeling really confident. I made some silly mistakes here last year and I'm out to do better"

Returning to the competitive fold for the first time since his crippling hamstring injury mid-last year, Tweed Heads surfer Mick Fanning (Australia) has been drawing ongoing attention, from the media and scrutiny from his peers.

"I think Mick Fanning is the X-Factor for this event," declared Kelly Slater. "We're all looking forward to seeing his form back in the water. He will probably be the most driven guy here in this event."

Whilst attention was focussed on our accomplished stars and prime contenders at the press conference mid-morning, 12 potential young stars for the sole remaining wildcard slot in the Quiksilver Pro Presented by Boost were battling in clean 1-2'+ (0.5m+) waves. They alternated heats with eight young girls on a parallel schedule for the Roxy trials.

Despite the small conditions, both the men and women surfed deftly, skilfully deriving power from the clean bowling sections running across the point. Spectators gathered under mostly cloudy skies and braved passing showers to be stunned with the level of performance.

The passage to the men's final was frantically contested. Defending trials winner Shaun 'Aussie Gozzy' Gossman (South African/awaiting Australian citizenship), reigning Australasian Junior Champion Leigh Sedley and the mighty mite Glen 'Micro' Hall (Australia) advanced clearly into the final but a countback was needed to break a deadlock between five surfers all on 18 points after three rounds for the fourth spot in the final.

The five man tie between Jarrad Sullivan, Chris Davidson, Josh Kerr, Jeremy Flores and Damon Harvey was broken on the tally sheets, the final spot going to local Harvey by 1.05 points from Reunion Island's Flores.

The women's division of the trials boasted stunning standards, with Stephanie Gilmore (Australia) and 12 year-old super-gromette Carissa Moore (Hawaii) absolute standouts. The smooth repertoire of Gilmore yielded high scores in the high eights and nines to win both her first two rounds, while young Moore bewildered her elder foes with everything from 360s to full rail slashes throughout the three rounds.

The women's final was a full international affair contested by Carissa Moore, Caroline Sarran (France), Roseanne Hodge (South Africa) and Australia's Gilmore. The waves rarely connected to the inside section, but the girls were quick making the most of the outside sand, getting in two or three moves on average. Gilmore came through with an 8.75 and 7.75 to solidly secure the Roxy wildcard from Roseanne Hodge. Gilmore now draws World Champ Mulanovich in the first round of the Roxy pro Presented by Boost Mobile.Continued…