With three out of last year's top five into the quarterfinals of the Quiksilver Pro Australia the stage has already been set for an exciting year, and potentially another dramatic world title race.
As the contest made its way through rounds three and four Kelly Slater took to the water twice. First he eliminated a newly invigorated Dusty Payne in round three, then the 11-time world champ went on to defeat Bede Durbidge and Matt Wilkinson in an exciting forth round battle to advance him straight to the quarters. Slater posted the day's highest heat score, a 18.27 total. The blistering performance demonstrated that he's very much all in when it comes to committing to a run for a record 12th world title, and he knows that winning the first event of the year would really set the pace.
"The level has been really, really high here today and it's a good start to the year. Hopefully we can get some waves at Kirra either tomorrow or Wednesday and finish in some barrels," Slater said in his post-heat interview.
Mick Fanning has also began his 2013 campaign in true White Lightning-style, eliminating rookie Nat Young in the third round and blitzing his round four heat over Travis Logie and Brett Simpson. Fanning appears to be surfing better than ever and looks very motivated this season. With his advancement into the quarters he is exactly where he needs to be to get his world title campaign on the right track.
"Everyone on tour is dangerous, and I just approached that heat by trying to pull out to an early lead and loosen up my surfing. Round 4 is non-elimination so there's slightly less pressure but at the same time, it's a huge advantage to leapfrog over Round 5 and go straight into the Quarters," said Fanning.
Defending Quik Pro champ Taj Burow has always performed well at Snapper Rocks, and he demonstrated that yet again as he blew through Adam Melling and Jeremy Flores to advance into the quarters.
The upset of the day came when Julian Wilson won a close heat over newly crowned world champ Joel Parkinson and Michel Bourez in the round four. All three competitors were absolutely ripping, and the scoring demonstrated this. When the horn sounded there was just over a point separating all three of them.
"It feels really good to beat the champ out there," noted Wilson. "It's a huge confidence booster."
With Slater, Burrow, Fanning and Wilson already in the quarters the stage has been set for an incredible final day of surfing. With hopes of swell on the way rumors of finishing in pumping Kirra have been circulating around the contest area.
"Hopefully we can get some waves at Kirra either tomorrow or Wednesday and finish in some barrels," said Slater. Time will tell, but one thing's for sure, wherever this contest finally ends it's going to be exciting.
QUIKSILVER PRO GOLD COAST REMAINING ROUND 3 RESULTS:
Heat 7: Kelly Slater (USA) 15.23 def. Dusty Payne (HAW) 13.34
Heat 8: Bede Durbidge (AUS) 15.00 def. C.J. Hobgood (USA) 12.50
Heat 9: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 12.63 def. Josh Kerr (AUS) 12.37
Heat 10: Brett Simpson (USA) 12.16 def. Gabriel Medina (BRA) 9.53
Heat 11: Travis Logie (ZAF) 15.44 def. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 15.43
Heat 12: Mick Fanning (AUS) 16.67 def. Nat Young (USA) 16.36
QUIKSILVER PRO GOLD COAST ROUND 4 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Taj Burrow (AUS) 18.06, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 13.83, Adam Melling (AUS) 10.07
Heat 2: Julian Wilson (AUS) 16.60, Joel Parkinson (AUS) 16.53, Michel Bourez (PYF) 15.13
Heat 3: Kelly Slater (USA) 18.27, Bede Durbidge (AUS) 16.60, Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 16.44
Heat 4: Mick Fanning (AUS) 15.40 Travis Logie (ZAF) 13.60, Brett Simpson (USA) 8.23
QUIKSILVER PRO GOLD COAST ROUND 5 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 1: Jeremy Flores (FRA) vs. Michel Bourez (PYF)
Heat 2: Joel Parkinson (AUS) vs. Adam Melling (AUS)
Heat 3: Bede Durbidge (AUS) vs. Brett Simpson (USA)
Heat 4: Travis Logie (ZAF) vs. Matt Wilkinson (AUS)
QUIKSILVER PRO GOLD COAST QUARTERFINAL MATCH-UPS:
QF 1: Taj Burrow (AUS) vs. TBD
QF 2: Julian Wilson (AUS) vs. TBD
QF 3: Kelly Slater (USA) vs. TBD
QF 4: Mick Fanning (AUS) vs. TBD