Chewing the fat with Kai. © Joli
I’m writing this blog in the plane on the way up to Tahiti and right now I’m getting twitchy in my seat. We’ve heard the waves for the trials at Teahupoo have been fun and I’m frothing at the chance to match wits and nerve against that amazing reef break.
The plane is full of other pros heading up there and there’s a real buzz within this silver budgie, that’s for sure. For me, I’m pumped as I didn’t do as well as I wanted at Bells in the last event. I’m ranked 9th after the Australian leg of the Dream Tour and my mission is to improve on that from now, starting with the Billabong Pro in Tahiti.
Bells at Easter was a bit of a frustrating time for me. The contest was the first to run under the new ASP format of sudden death heats from Day 1 but with the top 16 seeded into the second round.
Unfortunately for me, I had a close heat but went down to Adam Robertson in my opening heat. The waves were really fun for it – about four foot – and we were going score for score the whole heat.
With about 10 minutes to go, I held the lead and priority and ‘Robbo’ needed an 8.1. A smaller set wave came in and I let it go, thinking he wouldn’t get it. But he did, lit the wave up and nailed an 8.4. That left me needing a 7.9 – but no more sets came through. I felt it was one of those heats were it could have gone either way.
Robbo went on to have such an amazing result, finishing second. I knew ahead of the heat that it would be a tough one. Robbo had won the trials and being a local, he has Bells dialled in. Those guys are always dangerous because they have put the time in at that break and know where to sit in the line-up to get the best waves.
There’s been plenty of swell in Queensland. © Joli
The upcoming event at Teahupoo is a classic example of a contest where local knowledge and time in the water make the wildcards and trials winner huge threats to all the top guys.
It was pretty frustrating going out in my first heat at Bells. And, of course, there was no extra round buffer there. I think most surfers weren’t really into the new format, so we might see a lot of the other contest using the old format again.
Of course, in Tahiti it will be a case of trying to catch up to the tearaway ratings leader. This time last year it was Kelly Slater. This year it’s ‘Parko’.
Joel’s early dominance doesn’t surprise me. He’s definitely on a roll and I think his training has a big part to do with that. I know he is putting so much into every part of his preparation. That’s translating to peak performances at the right time – in this case, the first two contests.
Joel has always had so much natural talent. We all regard him as a freak but with all this extra training he is doing it’s showing up big time in his results and he is setting a mean pace!
In terms of Kelly, I think he has just been a bit unlucky in both contests. He struck hot rising Aussie surfers in Julian Wilson and Owen Wright. Both were on fire and definitely grabbed the opportunity to surf against Kelly with both hands.
Kelly was in perfect form last year and sometimes things just don’t go your way. But he will be pretty fired up to do well in Tahiti and he has probably the best record out of anyone there – so expect a strong campaign to turn his year around.
In terms of myself, since Bells I have been training and surfing Queensland. We’ve had some awesome swells this year with some of the best waves in a long time. It’s difficult to prepare for Tahiti because we just don’t get waves
like that in Queensland and most decent barrelling waves are rights.
But I did slip in a couple of quick trips to my old stomping grounds of North Straddie where you can find some nice left hand barrels. My recent trip to Lakey Peak was also good for some practice for backhand barrel riding. We got some really fun barrels and in the few days I was there I was able to fine tune my ‘pigdog’.