It was a day absolutely dominated by goofy-footers, most notably -- and as to be expected -- by CJ and Damien Hobgood. For the opening round of the Volcom Fiji Pro the twins' affinity for Cloudbreak was on full display. Damien made short work of two-time world champ Mick Fanning and wildcard Alex Gray.
"I was nervous before my heat and just got it rolling right at the start," said Damien. "Towards the end, I creased my board, but I knew I couldn't leave Mick in the lineup with priority. I saw him get the 6 and knew I couldn't give him a good wave. I knew I'd have to make him earn it."
For his part in it, CJ ended the day with a convincing win over Glenn Hall and Michel Bourez, picking the better set waves, drawing more committed lines and accenting each ride with some solid rail surfing at the end.
With flawless three to five-foot surf working down the Cloudbreak reef, the rest of the goofy contingent got into the act. Freddy Patacchia returned to world tour competition as an injury replacement and seized upon the opportunity, halting Jordy Smith's world title momentum.
"This is a great event to come back to," said Patacchia afterward. "I love coming to Tavarua and I've been coming here since I was about 15 years old. My ankle is feeling decent. I've got it wrapped and braced and was looking for barrels out there because my turns aren't really where I want them to be right now. It's looking like it's going to be about barrels and that's what I'm looking for. We didn't have a whole lot of swell before the event, so I didn't get much practice, but I'm stoked to get the win."
Aussies Kai Otton and Mitch Coleborn also got things going for the land down under as Otton took out last year's runner-up, Gabriel Medina, while wildcard Coleborn dropped the contest's first perfect 10 and knocked Adriano De Souza back a peg in the process.
"The waves are pumping. To get the wildcard again, I'm just so stoked," said Coleborn. "With priority in Round 1 now, it makes for more of a relaxing three-man heat. I was lucky with the first wave and that it was a 10. There wasn't much jockeying. I was pretty confident after that and there wasn't much hassling, so I was lucky."
But while most of the world tour competitors were smiling and scoring, two surfers were very obviously missing. Both Kelly Slater and Joel Parkinson failed to show up for their heats and are thus relegated to round two. Slater had lingered at home in Florida awaiting the birth of his nephew. Parkinson's excuse wasn't quite so noble: He was fishing.
"I was 100 percent convinced last night that the contest would be off today, so we went fishing early this morning," said Parkinson about his absence. "There is so much good surf coming in the contest window that I thought there was no way we'd be surfing, so we grabbed the fishing rods and took off down the coast in the boat. But the swell filled in a little early and the conditions at Cloudbreak were so good they had no choice but to run. There's no way you walk away from waves that good. I was out of phone range and by the time the contest was called on I was too far away to make it back because I was in the third heat of the morning."
All told, it was a dramatic day of action with plenty of subplots, and with a very good swell forecast on the horizon this event looks like it will deliver some incredible action in the coming days.
VOLCOM FIJI PRO ROUND 1 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Fred Patacchia (HAW) 15.20, Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 14.50, Jordy Smith (ZAF) 11.00
Heat 2: Travis Logie (ZAF) 10.06, Yadin Nicol (AUS) 6.67, Taj Burrow (AUS) 4.90
Heat 3: Heitor Alves (BRA) 18.63, Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 15.33, Joel Parkinson (AUS) ns
Heat 4: Mitch Coleborn (AUS) 19.33, Alejo Muniz (BRA) 6.60, Adriano de Souza (BRA) 5.77
Heat 5: Damien Hobgood (USA) 17.47, Mick Fanning (AUS) 17.23, Alex Grey (AUS) 6.23
Heat 6: Miguel Pupo (BRA) 12.00, Aca Lalabalavu (FIJ) 8.50, Kelly Slater (USA) ns
Heat 7: Kai Otton (AUS) 17.43, Dusty Payne (HAW) 14.36, Gabriel Medina (BRA) 7.96
Heat 8: Kieren Perrow (AUS) 12.57, Julian Wilson (AUS) 8.50, Bede Durbidge (AUS) 7.60
Heat 9: Josh Kerr (AUS) 17.66, Adam Melling (AUS) 13.36, Filipe Toledo (BRA) 13.27
Heat 10: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 16.34, Glenn Hall (IRL) 13.67, Michel Bourez (PYF) 10.63