Rip Curl Search Arica, Chile – Final Day

CONDITIONS: 4-6 foot, glassy and same as it ever was
HEATS RUN: Quarters, Semis, and, uh, yeah, a Final, too
NATURE'S CALL: Go on without me
PREDICTIONS: Champagne in the shower

It all came down to the Semi Finals. In one, a highly-tuned, well-oiled machine vs. a maniacal, unwieldy force of nature. In the other, a pair of identical twins.

No one really thought we'd start this morning, but no one really thought the waves were gonna be any better tomorrow, so why delay Groundhog Day The Sequel any longer. No one thought Mick Fanning was going to beat Bobby Martinez, who started his heat with a Perfect Ten and ended it unable to find a simple two. No one thought anyone would take down grinning tube-demon Dean Morrison, but {{{CJ}}} Hobgood's careful, consistent strategy paid off in the end. No one thought wildcard Bruno Santos' Pipe skills would take him this far into a Fosters ASP World Tour event, but Damien Hobgood's title-run year put a quick stop to that.

So, there we were. Semi Finals. Mick the machine vs. tornado Andy, and a pair of Hobgoods staring at themselves in the mirror.

"We're just gonna let Mick win his title this year," AI had said the day before. "So he can stop being so serious and hang out with the boys again." It was funny at the moment, but walking out to his heat, you could see Andy wasn't going to "let" Mick have anything.

Fanning came out swinging, front-loading the heat with a string of mid-scoring insiders, while Andy just sat there, biding his time and shivering in his wettie. When AI's wave came, he dug in deep and ripped a 9.0 right off the foamball. Right then you knew it was over. Andy's been doing this the whole contest. Picking two waves, and crushing them. So when he came out of his next long left and claimed it with "the claw" (a freshie from his bottomless bag-o-claims), you just knew that was it. Mick knew it, too. Never one to give up, Fanning shook hands with AI 30-seconds before the buzzer. Third place remains his worst result for the year, and Mick didn't seem to disappointed with his finish. He immediately reviewed the tapes of his waves, then paddled out for a few more practice waves during the fifteen-minute pre-final interlude. He's playing the long game for sure, and this could very well still be his year. Get 'em, Mick.

"This is going to be a really cute semi," said Andy's fianc Lyndie, regarding the Hobgood heat. "When Andy and Bruce surf against each other, it's not so cute."

It was hard to know who to root for during the Hobgood heat, and not just because they look the same (thank god for colored jerseys). CJ's been trying to dig his way out of a two year slump, but Damien's putting a solid title chase this year. And they're both so damn nice. Can't we just flip a coin?

The boys sat close together, fondly recalling the moment of their birth together or maybe going over the numbers on their co-owned Florida shop, The Goods. CJ led the heat, but in the end, the title race proved more important and Damo re-claimed the lead with a late heat scorcher. CJ stayed out with Fanning to put on a lackluster half-time show. The waves were falling apart and photographers were already jockeying for position around the victory stands. Hold on, guys, there's still one heat left.

Oh wait, no there isn't. Not really. Maybe Damien was a little down after beating his brother, or maybe just worn out from showing up too early to the Groundhog Day marathon (even his wife split a few days ago), but somehow, he just didn't seem all there. Meanwhile, Andy through his two wave strategy on the fire to stay warm and started taking every wave that came his way, bouncing off the reef and . Halfway through the heat, AI had a half-dozen scores and Damo had a big ol' goose egg. "I was maybe thinking too hard out there," Damo said later, "I never really had a chance." When he finally did grab a decent tubo, Andy immediately followed with a deep, draining 9-pointer. OK, now you can take your places around the victory podium.

"Mucho chi chi!" AI screamed from the stands, working the massive crowd before him. Arica responded in perfect harmony, "Chi chi, Andy!"

"And I just love Damo, this guy's the greatest," added Andy from beneath the first rain this town's seen in 400 years (brought to you by Fosters). "But I'm glad he didn't beat me."

And so it goes.

Most of the World Tour boys have already gone home, which means more booze for us poor media-guys. Mick is already at the bar letting Eugene out of his gimp-box for a bit of air (poor bloke looks mighty pale these days, what with Fanning's all-consuming training regiment), and Damo and CJ are still smiling over a pair of solid (though not identical) results. No one's even mentioning the unconfirmed rumors that Kelly Slater has finally hung up his jersey for good, probably because we've all heard that one before, and mostly because the title race is doing just fine without him. Meanwhile, AI's gonna have to make more room in his trophy cabinet for another giant Search globe, but at the moment he's got other concerns. "Cold champagne and a hot shower," he grins. "Are you kidding me!?!"

And if I may be so sloppy as to dust off my favorite quote from last year's Search event: "When Andy wins, we all win."

Viva la Search.