I intended to go to sleep at a reasonable hour on Tuesday night. But then I realized that it was Finals day at the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast at Kirra on the Queensland Coast in Australia..which meant that it would run when I should be sleeping. And since this is the first contest of the 2013 season, I really wanted to watch.
On the final day, there were four men left standing – reigning ASP World Champion Joel Parkinson, 2012 runner-up Kelly Slater, Mick Fanning and Michel Bourez. All had been surfing well through the event but I think that Joel and Mick were the two favored to make the finals – both locals who grew up surfing these breaks. In the end, Kelly took his 52nd career elite win on tour against Joel.
It was pretty much a tube shoot-out the entire day – barrel after barrel after barrel. In the first semifinal, as if on cue, Joel pulled into a gorgeous barrel to score a perfect 10. He continued to catch beautiful rides while Michel waited patiently out the back for his wave, but ultimately wins the heat 18.17 to 15.80.
In the second semifinal, Mick seemed to have the upper hand and local knowledge of his home break. He jumped to an early lead with a near perfect 9.93 while Kelly couldn’t seem to find the right rhythm. With Kelly chasing a score of 9.24 with 6 minutes left, he does that thing he always seems to do – conjure up the perfect wave. He pulls deep into a barrel and comes shooting out of it and finishes off the wave with a big wraparound cutback and a slashing turn for a perfect 10. He won the heat 19.37 to Mick’s 18.60.
The tube riding continued into the finals. In the first three minutes, there were three great waves ridden. They exchanged waves – the most memorable coming towards the end of the heat. Joel, sitting higher up the bank, took off on a wave. But, as he approached Kelly, Kelly took off on the wave too. Since Kelly had priority, Joel was forced to abandon a beautiful ride – one that might have given him the score he needed to overtake Kelly. If he stayed on, he would have been called for an interference, guaranteeing losing the finals. As Joel backed off, he fliped off Kelly. Awesome.
So here’s the thing. During Kelly’s interview after his semifinal heat, he was asked how he does it – how does he keep coming out and winning year after year. He answered that he is really good at observing and taking note of what’s going on and how that applies to his sport. On the drive down to the competition site, he said that he kept getting stuck behind slow cars. It was stop and go but then the traffic just opened up. And he took that to the water which is basically what happened in his heat with Mick. It took a few fits and starts before he found his groove. And when he did? It just opened up for him.
He also spent a few hours before dusk the night before just watching the waves at Kirra and again in the morning. He watched and made mental notes of where the good waves were breaking, where the line-up would be and where he wanted to sit out on the water, visualizing it all. In both heats, he seemed to be far away from his opponent but he had settled into one spot where the waves were breaking in a way that tended to lead to more open barreling waves – what he wanted for the competition.
What’s your favorite sport to watch?
You can watch replays of all the contest heats here.
Next up is the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach in Victoria, Australia March 27-April 7.
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