What’s the most frustrating part of being a World Tour surfer? The constant travel? The disconnectedness from family and friends? the struggle to marry explosive freesurfing tendencies with restrictive judging criteria? How about the 11-day waiting period?
Sure, waiting periods ensure that contests can run in prime conditions, although any surf fan will tell you that doesn’t always happen. But take the current case of the 2013 Billabong Pipe Masters In Memory Of Andy Irons, which got underway on Sunday, December 8th, the first day of the window, and ran through two more rounds on Tuesday, December 10th before taking a break and waiting until probably Saturday, December 14th to resume in what Surfline and other forecasters are predicting an excellent, possibly all-time swell.
Why is this kind of on, then off, then on again format so frustrating, particularly at Pipeline? As an intensely competitive surfer, you get in the zone, surfing through upwards of four rounds of challenging if at times perfect conditions at one of the best surf spots in the world — and then you have to downshift out of that mindset, take it easy for a few days (in paradise no less), and then psych yourself back up again in three, four, or even five days.
Tough break, right? Somebody’s got to do it, though — and with only 12 surfers remaining in the final event of the 2013 ASP World Tour season, including World Title contenders Mick Fanning and Kelly Slater, we’re pretty sure they can manage. In the mean time, let’s have a look at the story lines that have presented themselves so far:
- Damien Hobgood is very likely off tour for 2014. After a crucial runner-up finish at the ASP Prime Vans World Cup of Surfing, Damo needed at least a 9th at Pipe to requalify for next year’s tour, which would have been his 16th. But after beating Hawaiian wildcard Joel Centeio in Round One, Damien suffered an uncharacteristic stumble against another surfer in search of requalification, Australian Adam Melling, in Round Two, notching the second-lowest heat total, 4.07, of the event. Will Damo give the WQS his full attention in 2014, or step back and enjoy his life as a family man and free surfer? Only time — and a planned interview with ESM in January — will tell.
- Other potential re-qualifiers are still on the bubble. Brazilian Miguel Pupo is back on, while Yadin Nicol is still alive (but needs a 2nd-place finish to officially requalify. Pat Gudauskas’ status will come down to the very last heat probably, while reigning World Champ Joel Parkinson knocked Dusty Payne off.
- Mick Fanning was looking solid to lock up a 2013 ASP World Title — until a paddle battle with John John Florence at the end of their no-elimination Round Four heat relegated him to Round Five. Where he’ll surf in the first heat of the event once competition resumes against CJ Hobgood, no less. Do you think CJ relishes the opportunity to help Kelly Slater win his 12th world title by knocking off Kelly? Does CJ just want to prove his Top 10 status this year is for real by out-performing everyone at one of his best waves on tour? What if CJ were to beat Mick — then and come up against Kelly in the semifinals (Kelly needing to win the entire event to win the world title)? Would he Ceej over and let his longtime friend and fellow Central Floridian have it? Or fight with all the fire he’s shown over the last 15 years?
- Kelly Slater is displaying his usual late-season eye of the tiger — and logging the results to back it up. 17.66 and 17.56 — those were Kelly’s heat totals in Round Three and Round Four, the highest too of the entire day. Kelly went no-handed on his backside with ease, drilling Mitch Crews, who qualified for next year’s tour, in Round Three and dominating Pupo and Sebastian Zietz in Round Four. “I was worried this morning about the conditions,” Slater said on Tuesday. “John John (Florence) and I were out trying to catch a couple of waves and I kind of thought, ‘Maybe we shouldn’t run, maybe we should wait and hour or two until it gets better.’ It seemed like it turned on during my heat [though,] and some kind of energy came through for me. I knew I had to make that heat — you can’t let those things escape your mind. That was the reality of the situation, but it’s not going to change how you go out there and perform. I had to go out there focused.” If Mick is somehow knocked out in either Round Five or the Quarterfinals, Kelly will have to win to take the title. But the world knows that if anyone can do it, it’s Kelly.
- The Triple Crown race is still up the air. Tahitian Michel Bourez is leading the rankings, but he’s out after a Round Three loss to Jeremy Flores. Flores needs a 5th to overtake Bourez, while John John and Sebastian Zietz could do it with a 3rd. Meanwhile, Nicol or Fanning could win the crown with a victory.
Exciting enough for you? Tune in to www.VansTripleCrownOfSurfing.com on Saturday to watch the climactic end of the 2013 season unfold.