Surf: 6 to 8 feet, confused and wind abused
Events Held: Men’s Round of 96, Men’s Round of 64, Heats 1-6
Nature’s Call: I will always keep you guessing.
Predicted: Lots of math crash courses tonight
Today was tax day. When all the year’s payments and expenses are added up, spit out on a spread sheet and presented before you. Did you come out in the black? Or will The Man keep you down and living contest to contest for another long year? That’s what a dozen or so of the world’s most hardened qualifiers were wondering as they hunched over on those uncomfortable aluminum bleachers in the Sunset competitor’s area, occasionally looked up at the tattered, windswelly lineup and then buried their heads back in the ratings sheet. “Two guys have to make the semis, and the rest have to make the finals to pass me,” announced Sydney surfer Kai Otton who is currently qualified but left himself vulnerable today when he lost in Heat 12. “But I’m not celebrating anything until Al raises my hand up and tells me I’m in.”
No one is. Because today, in some of the most confusing Sunset conditions this reporter’s seen at this storied event, no one was safe. Ask five-time Triple Crown winner Sunny Garcia, who couldn’t buy a proper wave during his heat. Or the ever-improving Taj Burrow, who racked up a 4.33 total heat score in his Round of 64 heat and admitted he shouldn’t have gone out last night. Or, worst of all, Aussie Luke Munro, currently last man in for next year’s WCT, and needing to get through two heats in this event to guarantee his ticket to the Dream Tour. He faced the same thing last year, started out his heat strong, and failed to find a mere 3-point something to advance. Determined to not let history repeat itself, he went out and got one of the only tubes of the day and a 9.1 off the bat. Then he sat. And sat. And sat as Chris Ward and Nathan Carroll racked up 6s, 7s and 8s. With a minute to go he needed a four to make the cut…and he couldn’t find it. Repeated.
On the flip side, we saw plenty of success stories. Some from the obvious: Myles Padaca, Jesse Merle Jones, Ian Walsh, XCel Pro winner Evan Valiere and Maui up-and-comer are giving the locals plenty to cheer about. And then, from the not-so-obvious: Brazilian flyweight Adriano de Souza put a lot of muscle into his Round of 64 heat and substance-banned Neco Padaratz will be back on the WCT with an exclamation point when he racked up the highest heat score of the day. But perhaps the biggest success story of all (at least for you USA fans) is O’Neill’s Pat Gudauskas. Currently Ranked 25th on the QS, he squeaked past Hawaii powerhouses Makua Rothman, Daniel Jones and Fred Patacchia and is looking to sneak in through the backdoor in his first full year on the WQS. “You never know out here,” he said. “But hopefully I can keep it rolling.”
[Special thanks to Tradewinds U Drive car rentals. tradewindsudrive.com.]