EVENTS HELD: The rest of Men's Round of 132 and Round of 96 (heats 1 -13)
NATURE'S CALL: Never party based on the forecast
PREDICTED: A whole lot of good little soldiers tonight
Saturday was miserable on the North Shore. Small surf, steady downpours and a hideous, southwest wind that turned the Seven-mile miracle into a bad, stormy day in Oregon. And with a bleak forecast for Sunday and a lineup of festivities on Saturday night, many of the boys hit the bottle and planned to sleep it off.
Because somewhere around their fourth or fifth vodka and Red Bull, Buoy Number One roared back to life. First, 13 at 13. Then, 12 at 15. By the time things really got seedy, it was 16 at 15 and guaranteed to be full-on Sunset by dawn. And it was. A little too north, a little too messy, and maybe even a little too big, but Sunset did it again today, daring our qualifying hopefuls to step it up in the most challenging 'QS conditions of the year - sober or not.
A few guys weren't surprised. Makua Rothman, picking up from his three solid heats on Friday, strutted out and toyed with the washy conditions, high-fiving his caddy, Sunny in the channel after his two, wide-open bowls. "To have your favorite surfer backing you up in the channel is a dream," said Rothman. "Still gotta long way to go, but I gotta learn to crawl before I learn to walk. As soon as I make that final, I'll be taking my first step."
You heard it here first: no one looks more confident, poised and in control right now than Rothman.
As for just about everyone else, it's all about the numbers. Judging from the scene in the competitor's area today, you'd think we were in some sort of math decathalon. There was the Aussie contingent, studying the sheets, blacking out names and scribbling the possibilities: No. 21, Luke Munro, out after failing to find the 2.8 he needed to advance. No. 18, Glenn Hall, out and leaving the door wide open. No. 17, Tiago Pires, former Sunset finalist, lost in a sea of foam.
Which leaves the door open for a few of our favorite Americans: No. 26 Gabe Kling squeaked through and kept his qualifying hopes alive as well as out-of-nowhere HBer Brett Simpson, who powered through two endurance runs today and remains very much in the running for a WCT slot earned the Man's way: on the North Shore.
It's getting so heated, guys are boosting airs in their heats. Just ask South Africa's David Weare, 2006 WCTer, winner of Heat No. 7 and quite possibly the first surfer to pull a 180 double-grab reverse at 10-foot Sunset. "I was so pissed I missed the barrel section," remembers Weare, "that I just went for it. Never thought I'd pull it, but I surprised myself."
Like we said: never turn your back on Sunset. She's always full of surprises.
The swell has plenty of punch left, so look for another day of crunched numbers tomorrow. As the Round of 64 progresses, we'll start to see the musical QS ratings take shape. Boys on the bubble: Ben Bourgeois (24), Gabe Kling, Brett Simpson and Aussie Dan Ross (28), who continues to slice it up. The Salomon S-Core rider was pumped to ride the baby blue super-light boards at Sunset again this winter, but a delayed shipment from France forced him to rely on a traditional, fiberglass-and-foam Arakawa. Which seems to have made no difference. Of course, the Round of 64 will also bring out the biggest Sunset guns, including Andy Irons (Heat 8), Sunny Garcia (Heat 2), Pancho Sullivan (Heat 2) and Joel Parkinson (Heat 4).