Margaret River, Western Australia: Local hero and current Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) number one rated world surfer Taj Burrow looked at ease winning his opening heat of the Drug Aware Pro at Margaret River today.
Burrow won this event way back in 1997 as a teenager and over the past few years has not competed here but under the new ASP one world rating system he's back and keen for a big result in his home waters.
"The waves are pumping here, just about as good as Margaret River gets and the field is super strong so I'd love to do well," said Burrow.
"I'm relaxed and I'll stick to my game plan which is working well and just enjoy surfing these waves, the size is perfect for here and hopefully the forecasts remain true with good waves right through to the finals."
Burrow's surfed his early morning heat on a slightly fuller tide but comfortably won through on a score-line of his top two scoring rides of 12.66 to Raoni Monteiro from Brazil in second place on 10.10.
As the tides dropped the swells picked up today at Margaret River and the ideal conditions brought out some outstanding performances.
Owen Wright (AUS/NSW) is enjoying a superb run at present and he was the day's standout surfer scoring the top ride of the day (an 8.67) along with the highest combined two wave heat tally of 17.10 in his easy win over Keiran Horn (USA).
Wright's win was almost as impressive as his 15 year-old sister Tyler's heat win in the women's division yesterday where she scored the highest single wave score of the event so far with a 9.67!
"Tyler's scores yesterday spurred me on for sure," said Owen Wright after his heat.
"The waves are really powerful out there and big scores are the only way to do well in an event like this so I'll need to maintain and even build on that form."
The biggest upset of the day saw Adriano de Souza from Brazil, ASP world rated 5 surfer, eliminated from the event in a close heat that was won by Aritz Aranburu from Spain.
Fred Patacchia (Hawaii) was also a surprise elimination defeated by 20 year-old Australian Lincoln Taylor who posted one of the day's top scoring heat wins with an impressive 15.66 heat tally.
Current ASP world champion Mick Fanning surfed his first surf at the Margaret River break since 2001 when he famously won the event as a 19 year old in a victory that was a catalyst to a sensational season.
"That was my first surf out there since that win and it was good to get through and reacquaint myself with the wave – second in a four man heat is all you need so I'll be out to build on that."
"I love coming here and it's great to see the event really increase in status this year – it's a very prestigious event in world surfing and the new changes to ASP surfing have definitely helped this event increase its overall profile, the event has done a great job to have such an incredible field this year – the waves are always excellent here, like Hawaii they have power and you really have to surf well to get a good result and that's good for all of us."
Defending event champion Dan Ross also surfed well in his opening heat today but was very lucky to progress after he incurred an interference call toward the end of his heat.
With half of his second scoring ride deducted from his overall heat tally Ross slipped from first to second place and he managed to hang on to that placing to advance.
"That was lucky and there's no way I can afford a mistake like that again,” said Ross.
Swells should remain strong tomorrow when round three of the Men's Drug Aware Pro will be completed followed by round of 24 of the women's action.
A seriously large swell is forecast for Friday along with ideal winds so the entire weekend is looking incredible.