March 8, 2003 (Snapper Rocks, QLD, Australia) Six-time world champion KellySlater (USA) was clearly the star attraction at the Quiksilver Pro today.The US$250,000 World Championship Tournament (WCT) recommenced withremaining round two heats this morning, then progressed halfway through thethird. A Masters Expression Session was also held, while the Roxy Proquarterfinals were postponed.
Perfect 4-6ft (1.5-2m) waves were on offer at Snapper Rocks all day. Acouple of rainsqualls cooled off the ten thousand plus spectators lining thebeach, but otherwise it was a spectacular Gold Coast day.
Slater, 31, is no stranger to mass hysteria surrounding his surfingperformances, or even sightings. When presented the keys to the Gold Coastduring last year’s Quiksilver Pro, thousands flocked the streets of SurfersParadise for a glimpse of the champ. After his commanding victory over ShanePowell (Aus) today however, they literally followed him for a kilometer upthe beach.
The Floridian dominated the heat from the outset, posting a 9.0 first wavefor a series of vertical re-entries. Despite later acknowledging hisfrustration by not capitalizing on the quality of the surf with an evenbetter performance, the fans were mesmerized by his presence nonetheless.After surfing his way down the point to Greenmount headland, he was mobbedon the shoreline. Aided by security guards, yet surrounded by many more, heslowly made his way to the anxious media. Out of the frying pan into thefire, so to speak.
“It’s awesome to see people here to watch you surf and take part in whatyou’re doing,” offered Slater. “It’s pretty cool this is my job and peoplelike to come watch me do it. It’s really an honor. Sometimes it’s a littleheavy and gets a bit claustrophobic with so many people around (laughs), butI’m somewhat used to it now after all this time. That was a wake up callthough. I haven’t had it in awhile.
“Shane was obviously out of sync,” he added, of his opponent. “He justdidn’t seem to catch them. I was a little frustrated with myself, as Ididn’t think I preformed as well as I should in waves of this quality.”
He now faces Dean Morrison, who overcame two tough opponents today in fellowAustralians Nathan Hedge and then Danny Wills. On both occasions the22-year-old posted scores in the nine plus range.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had a man-on-man heat with Dean,” said Slater ofthe upcoming match. “I’ve probably known him for 10 years now, as I used tohang out with ‘Bugs’ (Wayne Bartholomew) a little bit, and Dean was alwayshanging out with him, so that’s how I got to know him. In a way he felt likea little brother to me, but tomorrow I’m going to have to get rid of him(laughs).”
Mick Fanning’s local knowledge and lighting fast surfing proved a deadlycombination for fellow Australian Trent Munro today. The 2002 ASP Rookie ofthe Year collected two exceptional rides for a 9.5 and then 9.57, postingthe highest combined total of 19.07-points in the Quiksilver Pro so far.
“That heat really lifted my confidence a lot,” said Fanning afterward. “Iwas feeling a bit shaky for the first few. Stoked to get another good boardand keep on going. It was pretty incredible out there. Like everyone says,it’s a fun park and you can do whatever you want out there.”
2000 World Champ Sunny Garcia (Haw) ended the run of last year’s QuiksilverPro runner-up Cory Lopez (USA). The Hawaiian slotted straight into thelongest recorded barrel of the tournament so far (clocked at 7.5 seconds) toearn an 8.17 and take control of the ‘Torquay Time-Tunnel’ bonus award. Hethen put his back-foot power into overdrive on a set wave, laying downcountless trademark gouges for a 9.5 to advance into round four where he’llface Fanning.
“I feel good,” said Garcia afterward. “I was out of commission for quite awhile with my knee injury last year and came back just in time for theTriple Crown in Hawaii, where I won an event. I took some more time offafter that up until now, so I’m a bit out of shape. Every surf I’m feeling abit stronger.”
Michael Campbell (Aus) displayed a devastating backhand attack today,eliminating Flavio Padaratz (Brz) in round two with the best single score ofthe Quiksilver Pro for a near-perfect 9.73, and then Kalani Robb (Haw) withanother commanding performance. He will now face an in-form Taj Burrow, whocontrolled his match-up with Paulo Moura (Brz), posting a 9.5 first wave.
“The waves are awesome,” explained Campbell of conditions. “It just comesdown to selection. Everyone can surf well if they get the good waves, sothat’s what I’m focusing on to post the big scores.”
Reigning world champ Andy Irons (Haw) then eliminated wildcard Troy Brooks(Aus) in the day’s final heat. While Brooks managed the bout’s best singlescore of 8.23, he failed to support it with anything substantial and lostneeding another ride worth 7.47 points. Irons displayed his usual flair, buta strong current made matters difficult for both contestants.
“Troy’s always a dangerous competitor and he’s beat me a few times,”acknowledged Irons. “The current was really bad out there, so it was hard toget up on waves. I’m stoked it’s over.”
Irons will meet West Australian Jake Paterson in round four, who dominatedBrazilian Guilherme Herdy this morning and later Shane Dorian (Haw). Theworld #18, who won on the famed long right-handers of Jeffreys Bay (SAfr)two years consecutively, is a definitive threat on the similar lines ofSnapper Rocks.
“He’s a really tough competitor,” said Irons of Paterson. “I better be on mygame.”
The Masters Expression Session held between rounds two and three showcasedan ensemble cast of surfing legends, including Australians Bruce Raymond,Paul Neilson, Mark Warren, Simon Anderson, big-wave maniac RossClarke-Jones, 1978 world champ and ASP President Wayne ‘Rabbit’ Bartholomew,four-time world champion Mark Richards, two-time world champ Damien Hardman,three-time Masters champ Gary Elkerton and two-time world champ andQuiksilver Pro co-contest director Tom Carroll.
Judged by Hawaiian master Jeff Hakman, the Mitchell Surfing Foundation (MSF)offered a US$500 incentive for the best performance, going to SimonAnderson – inventor of the three-fined thruster design used by the vastmajority of surfers worldwide. Anderson then donated the money to nearbyBurleigh Heads Boardriders Club junior development program.
“I hadn’t really trained for that,” said Anderson after his great session.”But I would have paid five hundred dollars to surf out there.”
The ‘Torquay Time-Tunnel’ award had plenty of hopeful entrants today. Thelongest tube in both the Quiksilver & Roxy Pro will secure an additionalAUD$5,000 bonus. Currently Sunny Garcia (Haw) and Pauline Menczer areleading their respective divisions.
The Quiksilver & Roxy Pro will be based at Snapper Rocks from March 4ththrough to the 16th, and being mobile means they will utilize the best surfbetween North Stradbroke Is, Qld and Ballina in Northern NSW during theallotted waiting period.