Kelly Slater went down and went down early in the Quiksilver Pro on the Gold Coast of Australia. Riding questionable equipment — a 5’3” snub nose — for the second straight heat, it would be his last.
Losing to local rising star and event wild card Julian Wilson in Round 3, Slater dashed his hopes of defending his title.
Instead, Slater finished in equal 17th in the opening event of the 2009 world tour.
Last year, Slater lead the tour from start to finish — winning an astonishing ninth world title.
However, that was then and this is now. A rejuvenated Joel Parkinson took the win in front of a home crowd — his first win in two years — defeating Brazilian hopeful Adriano de Souza.
Since winning the Triple Crown in Hawaii last December, Parkinson is said to be more serious than ever in his quest to take his first world title. Hiring a personal trainer for the first time in his career, he is believed to be in the best shape of his life.
Perhaps the heat of the event was the semifinal clash between Parkinson and 2007 world champion Mick Fanning that saw an epic seesaw battle until Parkinson finally prevailed.
Making the semifinals along with Fanning and also finishing in equal third was another Australian in the form of Taj Burrow.
Finishing in equal fifth and losing out in the quarterfinals were twins C. J. and Damien Hobgood, Bede Durbidge and Adrian Buchan.
The next event will be April 7 to 18 at the legendary Bells Beach.
My two picks for who may ring the Bell?
Slater and Parkinson, but I’m leaning toward Parkinson going two for two.
Until next time, stay healthy and keep surfing.
JAMES PRIBRAM is a Laguna Beach native, professional surfer and John Kelly Environmental Award winner. His websites include AlohaSchoolofSurfing and ECOWarrior Surf.com. He can be reached at Jamo@Aloha SchoolofSurfing.com