An intensity that is usually not evident at a world tour event was noticeable at Tuesday's running of the The Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast. Rounds four and five were completed, leaving just seven more heats before this year's winner will be crowned.
The contest is now down to the quarterfinals and the seeding is obviously working with seven out of the eight remaining surfers coming from the top 10 seeds. Goofy-footer Adrian "Ace" Buchan is the odd one out at the No. 16 seed.
Jordy Smith (No. 6 seed) cruised through to the quarters with a win in the non-elimination round four and it renewed a rivalry that goes back to last year's event when he knocked out Joel Parkinson with some rail bumping again Monday.
"Yeah, we had a paddle battle, then we banged boards at one stage. He's the local here and doesn't want anyone getting inside him, it's all part of the game. I enjoy it and think it's great," Smith said with a chuckle.
Smith was feeling comfortable with the onshore conditions and in his words: "It was a fun heat. Snapper is pretty similar to my waves at home (Durban, South Africa). New Pier has kind of got the same sort of onshore crumble but maybe not as hollow as here. The hardest part of surfing here is choosing the right wave, if you get that right then you're pretty much OK."
After losing in round four, Parkinson had to surf in round five to make it to the quarters. When he was asked about the banging of boards he just laughed, too.
"Yeah, we connected out there. Jordy and I have a pretty healthy rivalry going on. He's a good man to have paddle battles with. It's awesome to have a bit of emotion flowing. We were sitting just off the back of the rock and the backwash was hitting it. The northerly onshore wasn't helping either and I didn't want to give up the inside position," he admitted with a grin, "Jordy wanted that inside position, too. We were bouncing all over the place in the chop and neither of us was going to give an inch. Now Jordy and I get to have another go at each other because we are going to meet again in the quarters."
Parkinson was working off another rivalry today with Julian Wilson. They met last year in the Hurley Pro at Trestles and Wilson got the better of him. Parko wanted to get one back Tuesday and he did it in emphatic fashion, scoring the first perfect 10 point ride of the year.
Parkinson, who had just been stung by a blue bottle jellyfish (always brought in by the onshore northerlies) was holding wave priority and looked too deep. So Wilson took the wave, but Parkinson took off as well and with a 15-foot section of white water to get around he managed to force Wilson off the wave.
"My arm was still stinging from the blue bottle bite and I could see Julian really wanted that wave. All that combined just made me go. I got the little 'Snapper push' off the backwash and with the great board I've got, it all really helped me get around the section and gave me the momentum for the 10. It's funny -- you never really remember those waves and you get to the end and you go 'I think that was good'. I can't even remember how many turns I did but when I heard the beach commentators asking the crowd, "What score do you want to give it?' I was going, 'I'll give it a 10,' so I was pretty happy when they read out the score," he said laughing.
Defending event and world champ, Kelly Slater wouldn't have given it a 10, as expressed through his Twitter account. Slater beat Michel Bourez in round four and will face Josh Kerr in the quarters.
Buchan is one of the more mild-mannered guys on tour but he was fired up in his heat against fellow goofy-footer and Hurley teammate, Miguel Pupo, the last rookie left in the event.
The heat went down to the last wave ridden and Buchan was wading through the shallows when the scores were read out. He stopped and listened as they announced his win. Throwing his board away he let out a guttural roar and pumped the air.
"I like to show a little emotion if the situation calls for it," he explained later, "I'm a big sports fan and I watch guys competing all year in all sorts of different sports. You see a lot of emotion in tennis players, football players, even golfers. But in surfing the fans are usually a bit further away from surfers, you don't see so much (emotional reaction) but when they read a score out when you're close to shore then the fans can see what we go through when we're waiting for a score and how it feels to get the score you need to win, right at the end."
Buchan and Owen Wright are the only two goofy-footers left in the event, at either end of the draw the only place they can meet is in the final. In Quiksilver Pro history, only one goofy-footer has won -- Michael Lowe in 2004. Buchan figures that he and Wright are more than capable of making the final. "We'll both be out there doing our best so don't rule us goofy-footers out."
According to the surf forecast, there is a tiny window of opportunity early tomorrow morning. The Roxy Pro could wrap up with only three heats to finish, or, it could be the Quiksilver Pro (with seven heats left) that gets the nod. The next little push in the swell is not predicted until the weekend.
As the contest director, Jake Paterson, said Tuesday night, "I need a crystal ball to figure it all out."
UPCOMING QUIKSILVER PRO GOLD COAST QUARTERFINAL MATCH-UPS:
HEAT 1: Adriano De Souza (BRA) vs. Owen Wright (AUS)
HEAT 2: Kelly Slater (USA) vs. Josh Kerr (AUS)
HEAT 3: Jordy Smith (ZAF) vs. Joel Parkinson (AUS)
HEAT 4: Taj Burrow (AUS) vs. Adrian Buchan (AUS)
QUIKSILVER PRO GOLD COAST ROUND 5 RESULTS:
HEAT 1: Owen Wright (AUS) 16.20 def. Michel Bourez (PYF) 15.43
HEAT 2: Josh Kerr (AUS) 14.44 def. Heitor Alves (BRA) 9.84
HEAT 3: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 18.00 def. Julian Wilson (AUS) 10.06
HEAT 4: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 14.03 def. Miguel Pupo (BRA) 13.27
QUIKSILVER PRO GOLD COAST ROUND 4 RESULTS:
HEAT 1: Adriano De Souza (BRA) 15.37, Owen Wright (AUS) 15.134, Josh Kerr (AUS) 9.00
HEAT 2: Kelly Slater (USA) 14.00, Michel Bourez (PYF) 12.13, Heitor Alves (BRA) 11.10
HEAT 3: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 15.44, Joel Parkinson (AUS) 15.30, Miguel Pupo (BRA) 11.04
HEAT 4: Taj Burrow (AUS) 17.34, Adrian Buchan (AUS) 12.33, Julian Wilson (AUS) 9.33