The 2011 ASP World Tour season kicks off this weekend with the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast event in Queensland, Australia, where 10-times world surfing champion Kelly Slater begins the defence of his title...
The Quiksilver Pro takes place at the southern end of Australia's Gold Coast and the event has the ability to move locations around the coastal areas of Coolangatta. This is to take advantage of whichever area has the best surfing conditions on the day, so the competitors will need to be ready for the differing swells at Snapper, Kirra, or Duranbah. Home hopes, Mick Fanning and Joel Parkinson will, no doubt, be hoping that Snapper gets the call, with their local knowledge.
Kelly Slater's acheivement in winning his 10th world title last season is all the more remarkable, given that Slater won his first crown 18 years ago. The fact that he is the best surfer on the planet having just celebrated his 39th birthday says it all about the competitive instinct of this surfing legend. Twice winner of the Quiksilver Pro, Slater seeks a hat-trick this week and who would bet against him?
In the wings
South Africa's Jordy Smith looked to be the heir apparent to Slater last season, finishing runner-up in both the Quiksilver Pro and the overall ASP World Tour championship. Smith's brand of power surfing saw him take out Slater here in 2010 and with the confidence gained from a stellar year last time out, Smith is clearly a major contender for titles in 2011.
On only one occasion has Kirra been the venue for the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast and that was on the day of the final in 2009 when Joel Parkinson took out Adriano de Souza. That year, the event was held at four locations – Duranbah, Snapper, Coolangatta and Kirra – thanks to a category three tropical cyclone and the swell at Snapper was deemed too big for the competition, so Kirra got the call.
This former fishing spot was transformed into one of the world's longest and most consistent point breaks in the mid-1990's and on a good day with the right conditions it is possible to ride a wave for more than a kilometre down to Kirra. Snapper is the busiest break in Australia and where the likes of Mick Fanning regularly surf.
Highest two-wave heat score: 19.93 by Joel Parkinson v Mick Fanning (semi final 2009).
Eight from nine winner of the Quiksilver Pro have been naturalfooters. The only exception being Mick Lowe in 2004.
Australian surfers have won seven of the nine Quiksilver Pros. The other two wins were Kelly Slater's.
Mick Lowe's 2004 victory in the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast was notable, not only for being the only goofyfoot winner of the event, but for the fact that he scored the fifth lowest score ever of 4.83 from a possible 20 in the first round and still went on to win. Lowe is also in the top-10 of overall performers at the event over the last decade.
Taylor Knox has the dubious honour of being the oldest man on the ASP World Tour, but the soon-to-be 40-year-old is still ranked inside the world's top-20. One of the finest exponents of the power carve around, Knox defied doctors, who told him that a back injury would prevent him from having a pro career. That was almost 25 years ago and he's still going strong today.
The Quiksilver Pro is the first event on the calendar for 2011 and this year's format for the 36 entrants is: Twelve three-man heats to start with no eliminations, but the winner goes directly to Round 3. Then it's two individual head-to-head rounds with the losers going home. Round 4 is comprised of four three-man heats, the winners of which goes through to the quarter finals and the second and third go to Round 5 which is four man-on-man heats, the winners going to the quarter finals. The quarters, semis and final are all man-on-man match-ups.
R eynolds to rule?
Widely regarded as one of the most exciting surfers in the world, Dane Reynolds is a crowd favourite with his all or nothing approach. The ASP Tour world ranked number six is consequently known as '2 or 10' and his dislike for conservative surfing purely to get by in heats. A world beater on his day, it will be fascinating to see if he alters his approach in 2011 to become more consistent.