The period between the Quik Pro, Gold Coast and Rip Curl Pro, Bells Beach is prime swell season along the east coast of Australia — a fact understood by Kelly Slater, who spent the bulk of the month-long hiatus here. After winning at Snapper, Kelly flew to Sydney to compete in the Boost Mobile Surf Sho at Bondi Beach before summoning the best swell to strike the east coast in the last 12 months. He teamed up with his victim in the final of Quik Pro, Taj Burrow, for a couple of days during the swell and scored Ours as good as it gets. Taj even hooked Kelly up with a couch to sleep on at his friend’s house following a session. Kelly and Taj then traveled to Cloudbreak together for a week with prog-fly-boy Chippa Wilson and Western Australian pro Jay Davies. They scored “six- to eight-foot Cloudbreak as good as it gets,” according to one witness, with Taj claiming, “It was the best week of my life.”
The two surfers then flew to Margaret River for the Drug Aware Pro Prime event, Kelly’s first time there in 18 years. He was eliminated in the round of 24 by Billy Stairmand, a 21-year-old relative unknown from New Zealand, while Taj posted the event’s only 10-point ride but lost in the quarterfinals.
With the east coast of Australia entering a La Nina weather pattern — meaning warmer water, volatile storm activity and banging swells — the Gudauskas brothers chose a good time to drive the length of the coast in their motor home. They failed to realize, however, that with the waves at this time of year often comes the rain; with the rain, the mosquitoes; and with the global financial crisis, a big ol’ kick in the groin.
“It’s pretty expensive over here. We’ve been learning that firsthand. They think everyone earns $300k a year, but then you’ve got guys on the dole [Australia’s generous unemployment scheme], so we’re just baffled,” said Pat Gudang.
For the brothers, it was the trip of a lifetime nevertheless, with such timeless memories as when Andrew Doheny locked them out of their car in torrential rain. Or the morning they woke to the swell of the year, only to be unable to find Ours — one of the most visible waves in Sydney.
Despite the bumper run of swell, Jordy Smith hightailed it back to Cape Town, South Africa, where he swapped warm water wedges for 50-degree water and a poor run of swell (though he did get waves at J-Bay). It was an interesting decision given Jordy’s affinity for Australia — it wasn’t long ago he considered relocating here permanently — though one that made more sense after we saw a photo of Cape Town model Lyndall Jarvis, over whom Jordy has recently lost his shit.
“I am inlove with theist amazing girl ever @Lyndall_Jarvis . I love you more than anything babe… Xxxxxxxxxxx endless” —Jordy Smith, via Twitter this week
The Hobgoods split back to Cali for some family time where Damien, along with Bobby Martinez, scored pumping Rincon. Brett Simpson was another to fly back to the States, while Freddy P returned home to the North Shore for some late winter action and time with his newlywed wife. Misfortune struck the Hawaiian, however, when he landed awkwardly during a punt, straining the medial ligament in his left knee. The injury has ruled him out of Bells and will hinder his efforts to make the World Tour cut at the mid-point of the season.
Joel Parkinson knows what autumn means for the Gold Coast and its many sand-clogged beaches and points. He worked himself a nice ass-groove behind the rock at Snapper in addition to taking a few small trips around home. He then flew to Margaret River for the Prime event. While there Joel celebrated his 30th birthday with a tour, or what the Cooly kid called a “wine crawl,” through the region’s award-winning vineyards. According to a source close to Parko, the stains on his teeth weren’t the only things that remained the following morning. “He woke feeling 40.”
After being eliminated early from the Prime event at Margarets, Owen Wright and Ry Craike gunned it 10 hours north into the desert where they gorged on flawless six-foot lefts for the next few days (the ideal lead-up for Bells…narrrrrt).
Josh Kerr did a stint in Bali. Luke Stedman did the same, though only after catching the swell of the year on the east coast. Ace Buchan and Matt Wilko surfed with Steds during the swell, before Ace did a blink-of-an-eye trip to Cali, and Wilko joined Julian Wilson on a trip to the landlocked Australian city of Melbourne for the Formula One Grand Prix.
For Julian, the Grand Prix excursion was the second-to-last stop in a whirlwind global tour. In the month since the Quik Pro, he traveled from Coolangatta to Sydney for the Boost Surf Sho, then to Florida for a Nike commercial, to Cali to surf, then to Melbourne, followed by Margarets, and finally back to Torquay for the beginning of the Rip Curl Pro, Bells Beach. Being given a hot lap in the cockpit of an F1 car, in which he reached a speed of 180 mph down the straightaway, made it all worthwhile.
“That was just one of those once in a lifetime opportunities you get,” said Julian. “That was fff-insane.” —Jed Smith
To really get straight on Bells as the waiting period gets underway, check Jimmicane’s Passion Picks for insight from our resident expert, and the first report from our man on the ground in Torquay, SURFING Editor in Chief Travis Ferré. Then watch the webcast is it unfolds here at live.ripcurl.com.