As rounds four and five got underway, the reef affectionately known as Keramas delivered everything organizers of the Oakley Bali Pro had hoped: perfect surf and dramatic heats.
How good was it? Put it this way, Joel Parkinson, who would earn a perfect 20-point heat score against John John Florence, in round five noted that, "Over the years I've been coming here, there have been odd moments where you get a wave like that, but two waves like that in 20 minutes is unheard of. It was just magic."
In such flawlessness, results predictably came down to wave selection, and true tube connoisseurs like Taj Burrow, Josh Kerr and Parkinson were able to separate the super perfect ones from the really perfect ones. Even guys like Kelly Slater and Florence, who are normally able to pick off barrels like a master sommelier selects a fine wine, went down to opponents who picked the truly perfect ones.
Despite Parko's perfect scoreline, Josh Kerr was perhaps even more impressive in his round four super heat against Slater and Florence. In a heat that every pundit and critic had him losing, Kerr posted an 8.67 then 9.17 then 9.67 then 9.5 and finished off with a 10.
"That was the best heat you could ever ask for," said Kerr. "I had priority when the good ones came and that was just really fun. You can't script a much better heat, and that was my first 10 in a 'CT event. I've been wanting one for years and to get one in a heat like that makes it that much more special."
But as any surfer knows, perfection is fleeting and by midday a slowly rising onshore wind turned the tube machine off for the heats later in round five, most notably the all-Florida battle of Slater vs. CJ Hobgood. Taking the heat thanks to his vertical snaps and quick ability to adjust to the changing conditions, it was only the fourth time in 17 World Tour meetings that Hobgood bested his Sunshine State brother (and only the second time in a man-on-man heat).
"Trickier heat than most today, for sure," said Hobgood. "There have been some crazy heats with amazing waves and you could tell that the conditions were changing for our heat. I think out of all the times Kelly and I have met up, I've only gotten him once before today so it was bound to balance out. I'm having one of the better years, performance-wise, of my life."
Slater's upset opens the door for Mick Fanning, who sits just behind him in the world tour rankings and is already into the quarterfinals. Of course, Fanning said something about "taking it one heat at a time" and that "it's a long year," but one can't help thinking that White Lightning is really hoping to capitalize on this rare stumble by Slater.
And while there weren't any world title implications at stake, Santa Cruz-born rookie Nat Young continued his impressive, if not surprising, run of success. Standing tall against a hungry and unrelenting Adriano De Souza, Young joins Hobgood as the only other goofy-footer in the quarterfinals.
"Keramas is a great wave for natural-footers, I think the goofies have something special to offer out there as well," noted Hobgood.
Eight surfers remain in the Oakley Pro, six of them are currently ranked in the top 10. With the swell on the rise, the Oakley Bali Pro could very well come down to the most exciting finish of the young 2013 ASP World Tour season.
OAKLEY PRO BALI ROUND 4 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Taj Burrow (AUS) 18.30, Joel Parkinson (AUS) 17.90, C.J. Hobgood (USA) 11.57
Heat 2: Josh Kerr (AUS) 19.67, Kelly Slater (USA) 18.60, John John Florence (HAW) 17.10
Heat 3: Julian Wilson (AUS) 14.00, Nat Young (USA) 13.86, Mick Fanning (AUS) 12.50
Heat 4: Michel Bourez (PYF) 18.50, Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 17.23, Adriano de Souza (BRA) 13.87
OAKLEY PRO BALI ROUND 5 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 20.00 def. John John Florence (HAW) 19.20
Heat 2: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 17.00 def. Kelly Slater (USA) 14.33
Heat 3: Nat Young (USA) 16.93 def. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 15.94
Heat 4: Mick Fanning (AUS) 13.46 def. Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 12.90
UPCOMING OAKLEY PRO BALI QUARTERFINAL MATCH-UPS:
QF 1: Taj Burrow (AUS) vs. Joel Parkinson (AUS)
QF 2: Josh Kerr (AUS) vs. C.J. Hobgood (USA)
QF 3: Julian Wilson (AUS) vs. Nat Young (USA)
QF 4: Michel Bourez (PYF) vs. Mick Fanning (AUS)