Oakley Pro Bali: Rounds 4 and 5

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Things are moving fast now. By the time you read this, the quarter/semis/finals webcast will probably be warming up. The Oakley Pro Bali is proving one of the most entertaining events ever to watch -- a upgrade addition to the Dream Tour — but how will it play into the title race?

The buzz on today's event was a few heavily debated judging calls. But in a subjective sport, these are always going to exist. Gives us fans something to talk about, right? So let's talk. And judges: keep your pants on, you're doing just fine. We just like to bitch a little amongst ourselves.

First of all: John John vs. Parko Round 5...the scale may have fallen out of whack. After a too-high Parko score, Kelly Slater commented: "Now they're judging between 9 to 10, rather than 1 to 10. Sure enough, Parko's next wave was a 10, even after he fell on the post-barrel turn. His wave after that was much better. An 11? Well, a 10 at least. The scale fell out of whack, and Parko skipped into the history books with a Perfect 10 score. [Watch for yourself, tell us what you think: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=proJhaYEW7o&sns=fb]

Was it an epic heat? Hell yeah. Did Parko win, regardless of the scores they gave him? Yes, he did. So, what are you bitching about, just watch the surfing.

At this point, Kelly Slater suggested the conditions were no longer ideal for competition. But immediately after a Perfect 20 heat, he knew better than to think they might call it off for the day. Sure enough, the ocean went wonky and Slates left the building beneath the spray of CJ Hobgood's viscious blow-tails. He wasn't happy about it, but the Greatest of All-Time carries himself like a champion, even in defeat.

After ALL TIME morning conditions (just check the photos!), conditions really were deteriorating fast at this point. Round 5 was two heats away from completion and this would set up the comp for a big quarters/semis/finals finish on the peak of the swell tomorrow. So apologies to Nat Young, Adriano DeSouza, Mick Fanning and Fred Patacchia. Having watched five-second barrels all morning, these guys had to bash it out in a bit of onshore chunkiness. So it goes.

Poor Mick Fanning has barely seen a good wave the whole event. Even the one time he surferd pre-wind, good tide conditions, the swell took a lunch break during his heat. Never-the-less, Fanning has fought and snapped and chiseled and drilled his way through enough 6s and 7s keep in the hunt. Determination. Competitive savvy. And his signature slash. In this latest R5 heat against a very fiery Freddy Patacchia, Mick pulled out a last-second 7.3 ride on a medium/small wave to come back from behind and slip through the heat. Freddy was furious, splashing the water then roaring through the competitor's area. He's such a nice guy, it was kinda scary seeing him that upset. Never-the-less, Freddy fired a warning shot with this event. He's back. And he's on fire. No more INJ in his results box.

Mick's comeback wave was pretty small-kine wave, but he surely ripped it to the tune of a 7. Especially when you consider the conditions during that heat. The 10-point barrel rides were already drinking Bintangs by the pool...and 7s were all that were left.

So here we are. Let's forget the past and move forward. Quarters/Semis/Finals. It's a sick quiver of match-ups:

1) Parko vs. Taj: both surfers need a result to keep in the title race. Taj especially. How many more years of chasing that thing has he got, with Jordy, Julian, John John and Medina starting to find their pace. Could this be his year? Well, it would be hard to bet against Parko in this event. He's surely been the frontrunner so far.

2) Kerr vs. CJ Hobgood: A couple darkhorses right here. (Read my YAH entries to check their vibes on the event.) Both are highly motivated, top 10 title contenders and got nothing to lose and everything to gain. But with barrels on tap in the early hours of the day, the odds probably fall to Kerrzy. Unless CJ can pull of that varial air he's been trying...

3) Julian vs. Nat Young: Blond on blonde. Youth and rookie. Frontside vs backhand. It'd be hard to be against Julian in this one, but another case where anything could happen. Curiously enough, Nat's holding at 6th in the ranking, so a big result here could put him in title contention. Julian, not so much.

4) Fanning vs. Bourez: Fanning's the easy favorite here. He knows how to make heats, and he'll FINALLY be surfing some good waves (jinx!). A final here puts him solid in the lead for a World Title at the halfway mark of the year.

I've scripted these conclusions out at a dozen contests before and it NEVER goes how you think. Something always happens, and that's why it's so fun to watch.

The 2013 World Title is being decided inch by inch, heat by heat. Every wave counts. Especially the next one.

Round 4 and 5 Highlights