Racetracks: Mundaka Comes Alive

EVENTS HELD: Heats 9-16 of Round 1 and Heats 1-7 of Round 2,
CONDITIONS: 4-6 feet and freight training
NATURE'S CALL: Next few days could be good.
PREDICTIONS: Lots of in-form surfers so it could be anybody's guess who wins

Without waves, not much happens in Mundaka. There's a little plaza, a few tapas bars by the harbor and that's about it. I doubt the pace of life has changed much since the Romans and Vikings took up residence here. There's a few nice excursions out of town – Bakio's got a pretty little beach with fun waves and it's definitely worth a trip to Bilbao see architect Frank Gehry's masterpiece, the Guggenheim Museum. Overall, though, a string of lay days here will make anyone go a little stir crazy.

The wave itself, which under normal swell conditions offers up nothing more than a sucky inside sand bar peak, can lull you into ennui as well. But when groundswells take shape in the North Atlantic and point south-east, everything changes. The point comes to life as the swells touch down on a sand bar that looks like Maalae'a going left. How fast is it? So fast that the move of choice today was the section floater. Seriously, you could count the number of solidly vertical turns on one hand. As the tide filled in and the waves doubled in size from head high to well overhead, surfers had a choice – float over or pull in. Taj, Andy and Kelly choose the former while Bruce and Pancho opted for the latter. In the first heat of the day Andy fought off Tahitian wildcard Hira Terinatoofa to advance directly to round 3 while Taj had a fairly easy one early against former champ of this event turned 9 to 5'er, Luke Egan. Egan admitted that he gave his number 1 Aussie teamrider "a lot of room" in the heat and didn't look disappointed to see Taj advance. Later, in Round 2, he looked rusty in going down to a rampaging Dean Morrison.

So no spoils this year from old warhorses, nor where there any upsets from 16 year old last minute additions against 7x world champs. Kelly today made it to the comp about ten minutes before his heat and found that his opponent was now Cory Arrambide, 16, from Ventura, CA. Arrambide got the start because Troy Brooks still couldn't go after re-injuring his knee at Hossegor a couple weeks back. Kelly, who hadn't surfed here since he had the session of his life here on his first day in Europe, basically had a warm-up surf as the young Arrambide was no match for him. Kelly was admittedly out of position for the best waves of the heat but still looked crisp and in-form on the ones he got. Watching Parko and Fanning catch fire in France has also given him a new sense of purpose as he now, for the first time in his career, he sees four legitimate title contenders behind him. "It's an exciting time because Mick, Joel, Andy and Taj are right there," Kelly said. "Everyone of them is on right now. Last contest I don't feel like I surfed great but I got a good result so I feel like I can do better here." Kelly, who is always looking for fresh motivation and loves nothing more than a new challenge, looks like he's found it in the form of a more bunched up race at the top. This could put him back into a dangerously focused state of mind.

Kelly's next opponent, Spanish wildcard Hodei Collazo, proved to be dangerous to Taylor Knox. TK had a shocker in the tricky conditions and is now seeing his rating slipping downward. Collazo, who will now face Kelly in Round 3, offered up some classic broken English after his victory. "That my first heat against him and really like win him in this contest and this wave," he said. "He probably my favorite surfer and it's hard for me, really stoked."

With more swell on the horizon for the next few days and no major potentialities for upsets in Round 3, it's doubtful we'll see much movement on the world title front till Monday or Tuesday. By then we'll have a better idea of who's winning and who's getting won.

Check out the report from day 1

Today's round one results:

Heat 9: 1. Andy Irons (HAW) 12.33; 2. Hira Terinatoofa (PYF) 11.50; 3. Fred Patacchia (HAW) 6.43
Heat 10: 1. Taj Burrow (AUS) 13.10; 2. Luke Egan (AUS) 12.50; 3. Greg Emslie (ZAF) 8.17
Heat 11: 1. Phil MacDonald (AUS) 15.83; 2. Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 12.33; 3. Nathan Hedge (AUS) 7.83
Heat 12: 1. Mick Lowe (AUS) 14.40; 2. Dean Morrison (AUS) 12.86; 3. Roy Powers (HAW) 11.20
Heat 13: 1. Jake Paterson (AUS) 11.83; 2. Marcelo Nunes (BRA)10.16; Danny Wills (AUS) 9.60
Heat 14: 1. Bruce Irons (HAW) 16.00; 2. Chris Ward (USA) 15.26
Heat 15: 1. Pancho Sullivan (HAW) 17.33; 2. Bede Durbidge (AUS) 15.17; 3. Paulo Moura (BRA) 10.50
Heat 16: 1. Peterson Rosa (BRA); 2. Mark Occhilupo (AUS); 3. Darren O'Rafferty (AUS)

Round two heat results:

Heat 1: Kelly Slater (USA) 15.17 def Cory Arrambide (USA) 5.27
Heat 2: Hodei Collazo (EUK) 9.17 def Taylor Knox (USA) 9.00
Heat 3: Tom Whitaker (AUS) 16.33 def Hira Terinatoofa (PYF) 12.07
Heat 4: Dean Morrison (AUS) def Luke Egan (AUS)
Heat 5: Yuri Sodre (BRA) 15.50 def Danny Wills (AUS) 12.50
Heat 6: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 15.34 def Bede Durbidge (AUS) 15.30
Heat 7: Toby Martin (AUS) 10.67 def Mark Occhilupo (AUS) 9.50

Remaining round two heat draw:

Heat 8: Fred Patacchia (HAW) vs Mikael Picon (FRA)
Heat 9: Greg Emslie (ZAF) vs David Weare (ZAF)
Heat 10: Shaun Cansdell (AUS) vs Pedro Henrique (BRA)
Heat 11: Travis Logie (ZAF) vs Raoni Monteiro (BRA)
Heat 12: Cory Lopez (USA) vs Roy Powers (HAW)
Heat 13: Trent Munro (AUS) vs Marcelo Nunes (BRA)
Heat 14: Adriano de Souza (BRA) vs Paulo Moura (BRA)
Heat 15: Victor Ribas (BRA) vs Darren O'Rafferty (AUS)
Heat 16: Nathan Hedge (AUS) vs Chris Ward (USA)