Saturday in San Clemente, Calif. was fun, loose, hot, and the brothers Gudauskas played host to their first annual Stoke-O-Rama surf event at T-Street -- a contest simply to let some of the local kids go out and showcase their little mini acts.
"The best part was judging," smiled Nate Yeomans. "Seeing little five-year-old girls getting pushed into overhead waves, it was all-time."
What was also all-time was the fact that Kelly Slater took time out of his day to come down for the expression session. He joined Pat, Dane and Tanner Gudauskas, Damien Hobgood, Christian Fletcher, Yeomans, and a host of other local talent in the three-foot lineup. With near-record temperatures broiling Southern California, one could not ask for a better beach day.
Come Sunday morning it was a different story. Fog had moved in and a stiff south wind blew. Even with ample swell rolling through the Lowers lineup, day one of the Hurley Pro was put on hold until the morning sickness backed off a little. Finally getting underway close to 10 a.m., straight out of the gates it was obvious, it was on.
The favorites came out swinging. Adriano De Souza got things started with a commanding win over Jadson Andre and Brett Simpson. Taj Burrow was up next, and while Pat Gudauskas tested him briefly, Burrow went next level with a combo of turns accented by a clean, crisp, air reverse to finish ... which is a little ironic considering just a couple days ago Burrow told Stab magazine, "it's not worth going for an air-reverse unless it's an absolutely mongo size. I am so sick of seeing air-reverses and I know the judges must be, too."
Not so sick of them to resist going to the well when he needed to. Never one to run his gums, Kelly Slater followed suit, taking out Portugal's Tiago Pires and longtime friend Taylor Knox, who's board was emblazoned with a San Diego Chargers lightening bolt.
"That explains the lack of offense," laughed ESPN photographer Jason Kenworthy in a moment of NFL fandom. Knox could do nothing but splash the water at heat's end.
Then came the first upset of the morning. Dusty Payne, coming off a major ankle injury, hadn't surfed a heat until rounds one and two in Tahiti last month. He came out a bit wobbly at first, but got his feet in the wax, enough so to take out John John Florence and Kai Otton.
"It felt good to get that behind me, get that under the belt," said Payne. "The waves were starting to clean up and I got a couple decent waves. It was enough. With John John the door's never shut, but I was able to hold on there at the end."
Then came the next upset, Bede Durbidge usurping number two-ranked Joel Parkinson and wildcard Evan Geiselman. Durbidge, sitting back at 23rd on the world tour rankings, typically wouldn't be considered a dark horse in this situation, after all, he did make the final here against Slater in 2010, but the big bloke's struggled to find his rhythm for the better part of a year.
"He can do airs, but I have to wonder if guys like Gabriel Medina and Julian Wilson have surfed past him?" pondered Rob Machado on the webcast.
World No. 1 Mick Fanning held true to form, beating Freddy Pattachia and Conner Coffin, then in heat seven another upset. Owen Wright, last year's finalist (again beaten by Slater), was edged out by Yadin Nicol by less than half a point.
"Stoked to get through," noted Nicol. "Owen's dangerous in anything, and that was a close one. Stoked to be on into round three. Round two's dangerous here."
The final upset of the day came when Julian Wilson put on an anemic display, not breaking 10 points for his heat total, and falling to Ace Buchan, who dropped a nine-point ride towards the end of the heat to run away with it.
To end the day Gabriel Medina would close out his heat in similar fashion, hassling CJ Hobgood and Kieren Perrow, until, with one minute on the clock, he threw down an 8.63 to advance on.
"He's hungry, he wants to win, and he's going to go out there and do anything he has to," said Hobgood when it was over, doing his best to let professionalism outshine disappointment ... and maybe a little frustration. There have been rumbling from more than a couple veteran surfers on tour that Medina has a tendency to be a little overzealous in both his heats and his free surf sessions, constantly trying to out position and out jockey people. But Hobgood stayed classy in San Diego County, "He just wants to win."
Next call will be Monday morning at 8:00am.
HURLEY PRO AT TRESTLES ROUND 1 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 14.30, Jadson Andre (BRA) 11.10, Brett Simpson (USA) 7.94
Heat 2: Taj Burrow (AUS) 16.00, Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 12.57, Alejo Muniz (BRA) 7.37
Heat 3: Kelly Slater (USA) 15.66, Tiago Pires (PRT) 10.90, Taylor Knox (USA) 8.10
Heat 4: Dusty Payne (USA) 12.47, Kai Otton (AUS) 12.00, John John Florence (HAW) 9.00
Heat 5: Bede Durbidge (AUS) 14.16, Joel Parkinson (AUS) 12.87, Evan Geiselman (USA) 12.50
Heat 6: Mick Fanning (AUS) 15.60, Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 14.60, Conner Coffin (USA) 12.16
Heat 7: Yadin Nicol (AUS) 17.57, Owen Wright (AUS) 17.17, Miguel Pupo (BRA) 11.67
Heat 8: Josh Kerr (AUS) 13.20, Damien Hobgood (USA) 10.63, Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 8.00
Heat 9: Michel Bourez (PYF) 16.20, Kolohe Andino (AUS) 13.30, Jeremy Flores (PYF) 12.70
Heat 10: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 16.50, Adam Melling (AUS) 13.57, Julian Wilson (AUS) 9.66
Heat 11: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 16.30, Travis Logie (ZAF) 15.87, Heitor Alves (BRA) 13.83
UPCOMING HURLEY PRO AT TRESTLES ROUND 2 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 1: Joel Parkinson (AUS) vs. Conner Coffin (USA)
Heat 2: John John Florence (HAW) vs. Evan Geiselman (USA)
Heat 3: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Taylor Knox (USA)
Heat 4: Jeremy Flores (FRA) vs. Patrick Gudauskas (USA)
Heat 5: Julian Wilson (AUS) vs. Jadson Andre (BRA)
Heat 6: C.J. Hobgood (USA) vs. Matt Wilkinson (AUS)
Heat 7: Heitor Alves (BRA) vs. Kolohe Andino (USA)
Heat 8: Damien Hobgood (USA) vs. Adam Melling (AUS)
Heat 9: Miguel Pupo (BRA) vs. Travis Logie (ZAF)
Heat 10: Brett Simpson (USA) vs. Kieren Perrow (AUS)
Heat 11: Alejo Muniz (BRA) vs. Fredrick Patacchia (HAW)
Heat 12: Tiago Pires (PRT) vs. Kai Otton (AUS)