As I type, the 45 best contest surfers in the world are on Australia’s Gold Coast for the Quiksilver Pro presented by LG, the first event of the ASP World Tour, or as it likes to be called The Dream Tour. The talk of the surf world this year is for sure going be whether or not Kelly Slater is going to win his tenth title. There was talk in the past, during better economic times, that if he won, his main sponsor Quiksilver was going to reward him with 10 million dollars. That has never been confirmed, and may have been left in the past with the concept of the US dollar being worth anything.
The other big story is Andy Irons, Slater’s biggest rival, has taken a break from the tour and will not be competing. Irons is the only surfer who really seems to have Slater’s number when it comes to contests.
Slater may have ran away with it last year, but this is a new year, and there is plenty of motivated and freakishly talented surfers, 44 to be exact, that would love to prevent Slater from putting his title count in the double digits. One place in particular is full Slater Hunters, and crocodiles, and spiders, and snakes, and all sorts of deadly things.
If someone’s going to do it it’s probably going to be an Australian. Mick Fanning won the world title back in 07′ and I’m sure he wouldn’t mind making it two. Joel Parkinson and Taj Burrow are always right there knocking on the door to Title Town. Parkinson won the Triple Crown this past winter in Hawaii, and surfed a perfect heat in the Pipe Masters. Maybe, he can carry some of that momentum into this season, especially since the first event is at his homebreak.
Parko on one of his 10s in his perfect heat at the Pipe Masters. Photo: ASP
As far as the Americans go, there’s of course Mr. Slater, and besides him, our only hopes are: Chris Ward, Dane Reynolds or one of the Hobgoods. There are other Americans on tour, but these four have the talent and experience to do it. Wardo and Reynolds are little unpredictable, but have so much natural talent that if it ever clicks, and they get rolling, lookout! Reynolds, a tour sophomore, and last year’s Rookie of the Year, isn’t the most focused contest surfer, and has said he has nervousness issues in contests. Wardo on the other hand, he has no problems with nerves at all, which may be his biggest problem, it tends to find him in some trouble on land.
Another thing to pay attention to, is how South African, Jordy Smith, is going to do in his second year on tour. He and Reynolds had all that hype coming into their first seasons, and that has all passed. Now, they’re both coming off injuries, and Jordy’s knee injury is a little bit more serious. He did it in the final at the O’Neill World Cup of Surfing at Sunset Beach in Hawaii, a contest that he really impressed me in with his big-wave prowess. It was huge, the biggest I’ve ever seen it there for a contest. He has been rehabing all winter, and will compete at the Quiksilver Pro, so lets hope he has made a full recovery.
Jordy at Sunset, look at the feathering wave behind the wave he is on, it was huge that day. Photo: ASP
Now, lets get to this year’s rookies. It’s going to be interesting to see how they do, names like: Michele Bourez, Dustin Barca, Kekoa Balcaso, Nathaniel Curran and Josh Kerr to name a few. Bourez really impressed me in Hawaii, and Kerr re-qualified for the tour in his sleep. Then there’s Barca and Curran, I don’t know what to expect from these two. Curran wins contests at places like Huntington Pier and Sebastian, but the jury’s still out on how he’ll do at a place like Teahupoo. And Barca, he’s a really good surfer, and he’s from Kauai, so he won’t have any trouble in the heavy stuff. He’s just has to keep his head straight and not get distracted. He also has a new baby in his life, which may keep him grounded. Click here for an interview I did with him on qualifying.
There is also some rookies this year who have been around, Greg Emslie and Davey Weare know the routine. Look for them to not have as much trouble adapting to tour life as your usual rookie. Oh yeah, and then there’s Gabe Kling who like Kerr didn’t qualify two years, spent all last year on the WQS, and is now back for Round 2. Maybe, that year on the QS’ will motivate him to do better, so he doesn’t have go back to the junk surf of qualifing series.
Well, that’s it. The first heats are in the water, and the 2009 ASP World Tour has begun. Now it’s time to sit back, grab a beer, and see if the Coco Beach Freak can make it ten.