Trundling at Duranbah the day before the flight to Floripa. © Shield
From what I’ve seen from the first two events, if this year’s world title isn’t the most competitive ever I’ll be massively surprised. The Gold Coast and Bells events have been super competitive. I think everybody expected a hot start but nobody probably thought each contest would set the performance bar so high and that virtually every key heat would be so exciting and capable of going either way.
Taj and Kelly have laid down the markers with well-deserved wins but I think even they would admit this is definitely shaping as the most competitive year ever for the world title race. I reckon there are a good 10 guys in with a solid chance this year and that’s why every heat has been so exciting to watch.
The only bummer at Bells was that we were pretty unlucky with conditions. I guess we can’t complain because we have had some epic conditions over Easter in the past but this year the swell gods weren’t as kind. It didn’t get above 3′ the whole competition and under the circumstances I thought Damien Hardman did a great job on calling the shots through the contest.
Dooma pretty much had no swell to work with and definitely made the most of what was about. There were rumours at one stage that we were heading for Phillip Island and Johanna early in the event but we managed to get a few rounds in at Winki and Bells and, for the first time ever, a round at Thirteenth Beach.
My Staffie’s been loving all the rain in Queensland.
With the small conditions, I had an expectation that the event might quickly turn into an aerial contest. That’s pretty much what happened — which was a bit daunting when you looked at how good some of the new guys on tour are when it comes to airs. My early heat with Stuart Kennedy was a good example. I knew he was going to be doing airs so it was pretty much became an air show between him and I. It was so tight. I managed a snap on one wave just before I did an air and I think that was the difference between us.
It was much the same in the next round in super fun waves at Winkipop where I drew Tanner Gudanskas. Tanner has been ripping this year but because of his low seed, he’s had tough heats in the early rounds. I knew he would give me a run for my money and again it came right down to the wire but I just got the win over him. But while it was interesting that there were d aerial attacks coming at the judges in just about every heat, it was still the guys from last year’s top 10 who claimed the quarterfinals berths. As one observer said to me, the cream always rises to the top.
Johanna looked really fun for finals’ day but it was actually difficult to surf. There was a lot of bump on the face and it was really tricky to pick the ones that would wall up through the inside. But with only one day left of the waiting period, the organisers had to go with what we had.
My win over Luke Steadman gave me more confidence for the quarter final against Kelly. I felt good going into the last eight. Unlike some of the other guys, I don’t get daunted going up against Kelly. I consider it a privilege to surf against him as he always brings out the best in me. I had a great start and was winning the heat until he got a 9. I needed a 7.5 to take the heat back off him and to be honest I was supremely confident of getting that score as long as I could get the right wave.
Loving the standard sized boards again after a spell on those mega-fun little Mt Woodgee Bullets. © Shield
I had one last chance on my last wave to nail the score. The problem was that a lot of waves were only letting you do one major turn out the back before it would go a bit fat on the inside. So I knew I had to go for a massive air on that first section. I thought I had made that air but just as I landed I fell over the front of my board. I had too much forward momentum and my board wasn’t moving as fast as I hoped for.
I was spewing when I came up because I knew had I made that air I would have got through the heat and into the semis. I guess I was trying to do to Kelly what he did to me in the Bells final two years ago when he paddled up to Rincon and pulled off a contest-winning air in the last minutes.
Kelly certainly surfed amazingly well throughout the content and definitely peaked at the right time in the final. I think he had a really good board that worked in those tough conditions. It’s obvious he’s hungry to get that 10th world title after getting a win early in the season.
We’re all off to Brazil now for the Billabong Santa Catarina Pro. It feels a bit crazy going to Brazil this early in the year. Normally we’re getting ready to go to Tahiti about now. I don’t mind it though. It’s good to get that long flight out of the way early in the year. I really enjoy going to Brazil, though. I’ve had some good results there including winning in 2008 and I like that the crowds are big and full of energy. The Brazilian fans are great to surf in front of.
Talk to you from over there.