Competition Heating Up On Both Sides of the Equator For SurfersAug 23 2007 / Coolangatta, Australia
Two major events going down this week, one in the northern hemi, the other south of the equator. The points laden Rip Curl Pro Super Series is ripping into the Round of 96 at Hossegor while the Billabong Girls Pro is into the second round at Itacare, Brazil.
With a whopping 3500 WQS points on offer for the winner at Super Series level, the Rip Curl Pro is arguably the most critical event on tour. To quantify that claim, every 6 Star is important, especially the ones you or those you are supporting or sponsoring do well in, but put it this way, the Rip Curl Pro Hossegor is the one not to bomb out in. The Rd 96 is the super crucial one to survive; those that advance are looking at a minimum 1138 points yield, with each and every one pretty much counting towards qualification.
It is so freakin gnarly, this one round, amongst the hundreds of rounds throughout a WQS season, is going to cause such a shuffle in the pack. There really is cause for sleep loss, or, in the case of those who have already negotiated passage to dry land, a massive sigh of relief, followed by a reality check, as the opportunity for a quantum leap up the ratings looms on the near horizon.
There is such a contrast in fortunes, and aspirations. For guys like Jordy Smith and Jay Thompson it is all about putting daylight between oneself and the pack, Tour de France style. For others, like Aritz Aranburu, CJ Hobgood, Gabe Kling and Kieren Perrow, who are all within the #15 cut-off, getting through that round held nothing but positives. Each one of those guys will be eliminating their lowest score; all that remains is how far up the pecking order their final tally from Hossegor will land. Former World Champion CJ Hobgood, sitting right on the cusp at #15 going in, will instantly replace a low of 563 with whatever he snares in the final wash-up.
Then there are a whole bunch of guys who are on the wrong side of the envelope that could make huge strides this weekend. Already through to the Rd of 48, where even a losing effort of 3rd place in ones heat nets 1225 points, are David Weare, Mikael Picon, Adrian Buchan, Luke Munro and Simao Romao. All these guys are displacing somewhere between 600-800 points, so add 500 points minimum and they could wake up on Monday morning inside the rainbow. As you can see, things are going to get very congested on the launch pad after this week.
There are also those left rueing some missed opportunity. After gathering mid year momentum Roy Powers has had a bit of a stumble in France, he now will be forced to come from behind in the 6 Star Primes at Haleiwa and Sunset. Tough ask but at least he has home turf advantage. Chris Davidson has yet to build on the early season foundations he set and Greg Emslie also would have been relying on a ratings spike coming out of Europe. And then there are the guys who will have one more sleep before they face their own Battle of Waterloo.
Dane Reynolds, Jarrad Howse & Neco Padaratz are all in the top 12 and will also benefit greatly from advancing into the Rd of 48, but conversely, will suffer if the likes of Troy Brooks, Nathan Hedge and Leonardo Neves get a roll on and jag the major points. As you can see, this round is the equivalent of the running of the bulls, for some, like Tiago Pires and Ben Bourgeois, it is a bit of a lark, for others like Hedgy and Brooko it is do or die, while others like Dayyan Neve and Roy Powers have been gored and trampled in the stampede for Hossegor points.
South of the Equator, in mild winter conditions, the best Women surfers on the planet have resumed their particular quest for glory. The first round of the Billabong Girls Pro Itacare Brazil provided a glimpse into the kind of form the girls have bought to the resumption of tour hostilities. Being a non elimination round there is not a significant unfurling of story, except for the fact Chelsea Hedges absolutely dominated the field by posting a remarkable 18.50 in her opening heat.
To put it in perspective, the next bunch of high scorers were Rebecca Woods(14.25), Stephanie Gilmore(14.00) and Silvana Lima(13.45). That is certainly another tier down in performance, however the waves did fluctuate during the round and it ain’t the first time Chelsea has come flying out of the blocks on opening day. The girls have had a four month hiatus from competing on the World Championship Tour and it was nice to see them back on the job, the Billabong Girls Pro Itacare the opening salvo before they head to Europe.
With only two events under the belt it is way too early to see performance trends. We know that Chelsea and Steph Gilmore are locked together at the top after wins and they can feel the hot breath of former World Champion Sofia Mulanovich and reigning World Champion Layne Beachley on the back of their neck, but after that it is a log jam. It will be interesting to see how the title race takes shape, whether Steph continues her sharp ascent, Chelsea re-asserts the dominance of 05, and whether Silvana Lima harnesses all that wild brilliance and puts together a title campaign.
Either way the stakes are high on two continents this coming weekend. All the best to you all.