Will 2010 be Slater's last drink? Photo: ASP/Roberson
The first event of the WCT season is crucial to world title aspirations. A good start on the Gold Coast can slingshot you into world title contention. A bad result can affect your entire year. A perfect example is Kelly Slater’s early exit last year at Snapper. He seemingly never recovered. Since 2005 only 14 surfers have won a WCT event. Just 14. Can you believe that? If that doesn’t prove how difficult winning a ’CT event is, I don’t know what does.
The new One World ASP format will make things even more interesting this year, even if an Asian MIT grad can’t figure out how it works. With the Top 44 being reduced to 32 surfers at the mid-point of the season, a good start in 2010 is more important than ever. Additionally, there’s been a lot of hype surrounding the “revised” judging criteria for 2010 and the Quiksilver Pro will be its first test at the elite level. And according to recent reports, Snapper is looking prime and ready to fire just in time. But who knows? This is a mobile event and Duranbah might see a little action as well.
Joel Parkinson (2009 Result 1st)
The aftertaste of last year’s debacle may be still haunting him like Macbeth’s demons. Unless his conscience is “too full o’ the milk of human kindness,” Parko will be looking for blood in 2010, and he’ll have more of the crimson liquid on his hands than the aforementioned Shakespearean protagonist. After nursing a bum ankle during the later half of ’09, he appears to be 100 percent healthy and that equals bad news for the rest of the top 44. Because he’ll be surfing in front of a hometown crowd, you know he wants to win this one badly. And I expect him to do just that.
Kelly Slater (2009 Result 17th)
On his death bed whiskey maker Jack Daniel went out in style. His last words were “One last drink, please.” 2010 might be Kelly’s ASP farewell tour and if he truly wants it he will be popping champagne bottles in Hawaii (or before that) in lieu of Tennessee whiskey. Last year, on the Gold Coast, everyone was talking about the kneeboards he was riding. This year they’ll still be talking about his boards, but instead opponents will also be on their knees praying they don’t draw the 9-time champ in a heat. I expect no less than a finals appearance, and if he decides to do the entire tour he’ll win number 10 this year. Book it.
Bede Durbidge (2009 Result 5th)
Bede finished second in the world in 2008. Last year he finished third. How does this guy get virtually no press? Maybe Al Qaeda should recruit the Australian, because he’s so far under the radar he could hop on a Qantas flight from Sydney to Los Angeles with bomb strapped to his belly and no one would notice. Maybe he should start wearing eyeliner or go on a Tiger Woods-esque sex bender. All kidding aside, his local knowledge and ability to beat anyone when he’s on will pay off. Expect him to make the semis.
Mick Fanning (2009 Result 3rd)
If the “revised” judging criteria holds true, which on paper rewards progressive surfing more than ever, Mick might suffer more than any of the other world title contenders. He just doesn’t have the manuevers in his arsenal to match up with like Dane, Jordy, Slater and the up-and-coming young guns. But the ASP Tour is not a Kai Neville or Taylor Steele film and the two-time champ knows how to win. Besides, the judges have suffered from Paris Hilton’s Lazy Eye Syndrome for years. Why should 2010 be any different? You certainly can’t knock Mick’s innate competitive desire and ability to win when it counts. I’m pretty sure he’ll get a good result, but don’t expect them to hand out Micktory T-shirts and trucker hats when it’s over.
Taj Burrow (2009 Result 3rd)
Taj is on a roll. He won the last WCT event of 2009 at Pipeline and the recent 4-star WQS at Burleigh. That might give him the momentum he needs to mount a world title campaign in 2010. Consistency is his strength and weakness. He’s always in the hunt but can’t seem to ever finish the job. His clock his ticking. It can be argued the Western Australian gave progressive contest surfing its launching pad. If the tour was a Tennessee Williams’ play he’d be Amanda Wingfield, longing for the days when he was the belle of the ball. He still has a few prime years left, and half of the time competitive surfing is just luck. Taj always comes through with good results on the Gold Coast. I can’t see him finishing with less than an equal fifth here.
Dane Reynolds (2009 Result 9th)
There’s so much hype surrounding Dane he’s like a genetically engineered love child of Barack Obama, Miki Dora and Christian Fletcher. Dane is progressive surfing’s perceived savior. Last year at Jeffreys Bay he hit his stride and began to live up to the hype—at least competitively. He has so much talent and is so in tune with the ocean, that if he was female the tides might just ebb and flow with his menstrual cycle. If the revised judging criteria isn’t just PR propaganda, his go-for-broke approach in heats will surely benefit. A good start here may just propel him into the top 5 this year. It’s a sizable gamble to state he’ll be on the winner’s podium. At Snapper, he could lose in the first round or win the whole thing. My prognostication skills are like Dane’s surfing and I’m willing to gamble on this one.
Jordy Smith (2009 Result 9th)
I saw the South African assassin surfing a marginal beachbreak in Orange County about a week ago and he was just lighting it up. He might be the best surfer in the world right now. What amazes me about Jordy is he’s 6’2’’ and nearly 200 pounds. He can throw buckets of water and huck himself six feet in the air on the same wave. He probably won’t win, but I predict he’ll make the trek to Bells with no less than an equal fifth under his belt.
Owen Wright (2009 Result N/A)
Owen is my dark horse pick to win the Quik Pro. The only negative for Owen at Snapper is he’s a goofyfoot, which means he’ll be on his backhand. If some of the comp runs at D-Bah that might help his chances even more because it’s a right or left. When it comes to competing he has balls the size of watermelons. Slater? Parko? Mick? No worries. It doesn’t seem to faze the kid one iota. If he drew Jesus of Nazareth in round three he’d probably shrug and say “looks like I’m going to have to one up this guy’s walk-on-water routine.” And he probably would.