Clearing all the hurdles

Joel Parkinson continues to clear every obstacle that's been put in front of him as he makes his bid for his first world title. Frank Quirarte

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3

On again off again. "Gally doesn't want to miss any opportunities." That was the critique of O'Neill Coldwater Classic director Chris Gallagher from inside the surfers' area. The day started promptly at 7:00 a.m., they ran the remaining four heats of round three then went on a long, three-hour hold.

"Everybody split in every direction," pointed out Nat Young in an afternoon interview session. "The swell's either too big or two small depending on where you are, and it's too nice of a day to drive all around."

Nice it was. With summer-like weather rolling into normally fog-plagued Santa Cruz, had it not been for the inconsistent surf it would have been an all-time day. By about 1:00 p.m. the contest resumed, Gally and company ran four more heats and then signed off for the day.

In the afternoon session Joel Parkinson continued his roll, earning himself a deserved spot in the quarterfinals. He finally has that look in his eye. Enough playing around, he's been steady, consistent, and hasn't wobbled once in Santa Cruz, much less all year.

The same can not be said for his world title rival Kelly Slater. After running out for his heat against Jeremy Flores and Michel Bourez he set out of the competitor's area with a thruster, several minutes later Channel Islands' board caddy to the stars Travis Lee sprinted out to with a quad underarm for the champ. Slater's been all out of sorts; unsure of the wave, unsure of his equipment, and maybe unsure of his place in this race. Flores came out firing, Slater was relegated to third in the heat, and again he'll have to claw his way back from elimination.

Somebody that has been looking very much at home and could turn out to be a dark horse to win the contest is Matty Wilkinson. "I like this town, it's kind of weird and I think it kind of suits me," he smiled after winning the last heat of the day against Adriano De Souza ("He's been tricky to surf against," reported Wilkinson) and Damien Hobgood.

"I've had a really slow year on the 'CT, a bunch of super close heats, hopefully I can keep the ball rolling and surf in my first-ever final," said Wilkinson.

Again Gally and the ASP are eyeing a 6:45 a.m. start, and with few options remaining in the waiting period, looking to have the contest wrapped by midday ... providing they don't go on and off hold all day. There are some good round five pairings, but none more intriguing than Slater vs. De Souza in heat four.

In 2010 Slater trounced De Souza in Puerto Rico to claim his tenth world title. De Souza got him back in Brazil the following year, so much so that the two exchanged words in the water. And now, with a possible 12th world title hanging in the balance, they'll go at it again. Look for it to be a bit, how shall we say, chippy. Meanwhile, Parkinson can go to bed tonight knowing he won't have to surf until later in the day, and when he does, it'll be on his terms.

Heat 1: Taj Burrow (AUS) 15.47, Gabriel Medina (BRA) 15.13, Travis Logie (ZAF) 12.67
Heat 2: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 14.77, Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 11.93, Alejo Muniz (BRA) 7.37
Heat 3: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 15.87, Michel Bourez (PYF) 13.50, Kelly Slater (USA) 13.00
Heat 4: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 16.60, Adriano de Souza (BRA) 15.20, Damien Hobgood (USA) 10.37

Heat 9: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 9.50 def. Yadin Nicol (AUS) 8.66
Heat 10: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 14.83 def. Owen Wright (AUS) 14.00
Heat 11: Damien Hobgood (USA) 14.26 def. C.J. Hobgood (USA) 12.56
Heat 12: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 16.97 def. Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 15.23