Stephanie Gilmore wins the 2009 Roxy Pro Gold Coast

Conditions: 1-3 feet; soft and crumbly like feta cheese
Events Held: Women's Semis and Final; the first half of Men's Round 3; a big celebration (or in Steph Gilmore's words, "a zippittydoodah")
Nature's Call: If a Category 5 makes landfall at 4 on the morning of Round 3, then 2 bad for you, because there's only 1 day left in the waiting period
Predicted: Julian Wilson claims popular vote in the Queensland state elections on March 21st

Jake "Snake" Paterson surfed 394 heats as a member of the WCT, so he's quite familiar with the nervous tension of racing the clock, of waiting desperately for waves in time to beat the hooter. Now, as co-director of the Quiksilver/Roxy Pro events in Coolangatta, he's facing the same stressful waiting game on a grander scale: with five rounds of men's competition remaining and two left for the women, Snapper Rocks debuted Sunday morning swamped by a huge tide and bouncing softly down the beach like a tumbling tumbleweed. Epic for Rubber Duckies; a small nightmare for trying to crown two Dream Tour champions. The waiting period runs through Tuesday, with tropical cyclone Hamish set to dump biblical rain and {{{200}}} kph winds on parts of Queensland by midweek. Tick, tock.

In such circumstances, the girls get sacrificed first (but did you get those flowers we sent?). The Roxy Pro semifinalists were ordered into a lazy ocean at 9:30, sitting well wide of the point and trying to pick off inside runners. Coco Ho hoped to join Steph Gilmore in the final, and possibly repeat the latter's 2005 feat by winning this contest as a 17 year-old. The small conditions were right for it (Coco weighs about a buck-oh-five), but Melanie Bartels got what she needed early and held on.

In the final, Bartels v. Gilmore was one-sided, with the local jumping right into a high 9 and deflating her opponent entirely – "Super Steph Rocks the Roxy," you might say (thanks, Channel 7 news). Mel caught four straight waves that failed to break the 1.00 mark, just standing there with trunks and spirits sagging. She managed a 7 to get out of combo-land, but never really challenged the reigning world champ, who really seems to have had one hand on the trophy ever since this thing kicked off a week ago. The Twin Towns area never had any doubt: a Steph #1 claim was waxed across the asphalt of Tweed's Little Hill Street before a single heat was run.

The Fanning {{{comparisons}}} are inescapable, from the way the pair surfs down to the products they endorse (Mick once cruised Coolie in a comped {{{Porsche}}} while Steph, in a sign of the times, merely rides for {{{Ford}}}). The exception might be in victory beverages: Stephanie went straight for a backstage coffee after claiming today's Roxy Pro title, whereas Eugene would be two beers deep by the time he hit the podium (or before the final had even begun, as in Brazil '07). "It should be a Corona," Steph admitted, "but I need a little hit." It's no wonder, the way she's hounded by her fans. Among hometown heroes, Gilmore isn't just a sidekick; 10,000 people showed up to watch her win today. "The girl doesn't go anywhere without security; she's a rockstar!" exclaimed the ASP's Mandy McKinnon, trying to nail a post-heat interview. Whatever coins are left in your piggy bank, you can bet them on Steph rocking all the way to a third title in 2009.

Only after the girls had wrapped up, and the swell had come to life, did the boys jump into round three. Mick, for his part, didn't disappoint, destroying Kekoa Bacalso in exactly the sort of conditions that backstopped Fanning the Fire. Honestly, Koa had a snowball's chance in Tweed; powerful, but not nearly quick enough to challenge White Lightning. Joel Parkinson was similarly impressive against Tiago Pires, draping his lanky wings across the face with a visible sharpness that – call me crazy – reeks of quadriceps strength and Joel's oft-reported training regimen. And on, and on, and on until – what's this!? Zounds!

The final heat of the day sent Julian Wilson and his "Chicks Check Ya Tits" board (breast cancer awareness, you know) out against Kelly Slater and his shorter-than-ya-tits pocket rocket. Kelly noodled around on some mediocre waves, looking unstable in the now-choppy, two-foot reforms. Julian didn't pull a Sushi Roll or anything, but he did well enough to put the Champ on the ropes in need of an easily attainable 7.67 – easy, that is, if Kelly had another two minutes. He didn't. So he didn't win. And my, the roar of the crowd on the beach, on the hill, in the Rainbow Bay Surf Club and – loudest by far, from the competitors' area – was deafening. Julian was suddenly everyone's favorite everything, and Kelly shuffled back to his house in Currumbin, a 17th place result and a Luke Davis-sized surfboard as his only souvenirs.

And that's fine. What better way to get him all riled up and dangerous than a very public, very early defeat against a kid half his age? Keep cheering, heathens, it's your own funeral anyway! You'll see! You'll all see!

Aw, fiddlesticks.

The rest of the contest has to proceed tomorrow, because it has to finish on Tuesday, because permit restrictions and that pesky cyclone are going to make sure we're out of here by Tuesday night. So strap in to watch as Mick, Joel or Taj (or – longshot – a Hobgood) wins the Quiksilver Pro on big Snapper walls or classic Kirra dredgers – but not a Wizard Sleeve.

1 – Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 16.07
2 – Melanie Bartels (HAW) 12.50

SF 1: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 16.33 def. Paige Hareb (NZL) 12.16
SF 2: Melanie Bartels (HAW) 17.34 def. Coco Ho (HAW) 13.27

1 – Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 1200
2 – Melanie Bartels (HAW) 972
3 – Paige Hareb (NZL) 756
3 – Coco Ho (HAW) 756
5 – Sofia Mulanovich (PER) 552
5 – Rebecca Woods (AUS) 552
5 – Chelsea Hedges (AUS) 552
5 – Bruna Schmitz (BRA) 552
9 – Silvana Lima (BRA) 360
9 – Amee Donohoe (AUS) 360
9 – Samantha Cornish (AUS) 360
9 – Jacqueline Silva (BRA) 360
9 – Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 360
9 – Rosanne Hodge (ZAF) 360
9 – Alana Blanchard (HAW) 360
9 – Megan Abubo (HAW) 360
17 – Jessi Miley-Dyer (AUS) 180
18 – Layne Beachley (AUS) 0

Heat 1: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 16.50 def. Dustin Barca (HAW) 6.50
Heat 2: Jihad Khodr (BRA) 18.26 def. Kieren Perrow (AUS) 16.30
Heat 3: Chris Davidson (AUS) 13.67 def. Dayyan Neve (AUS) 8.27
Heat 4: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 18.50 def. Tiago Pires (PRT) 14.50
Heat 5: Mick Fanning (AUS) 18.10 def. Kekoa Bacalso (HAW) 14.50
Heat 6: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 12.83 def. Nic Muscroft (AUS) 11.07
Heat 7: Damien Hobgood (AUS) 14.34 def. Heitor Alves (BRA) 9.00
Heat 8: Julian Wilson (AUS) 15.33 def. Kelly Slater (USA) 13.84

Heat 9: Bede Durbidge (AUS) vs. Jay Thompson (AUS)
Heat 10: Taylor Knox (USA) vs. Jordy Smith (ZAF)
Heat 11: Adriano de Souza (BRA) vs. Greg Emslie (ZAF)
Heat 12: Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) vs. Josh Kerr (AUS)
Heat 13: Taj Burrow (AUS) vs. Drew Courtney (AUS)
Heat 14: Dane Reynolds (USA) vs. Roy Powers (HAW)
Heat 15: Adrian Buchan (AUS) vs. Tim Boal (FRA)
Heat 16: Tom Whitaker (AUS) vs. David Weare (ZAF)