News | Features  

MOTHER Ocean has continued to relax on her holiday around our Fijian paradise, so the Globe WCT Fiji remains on hold for the second day of the event-waiting period. Again, it’s no problem for the Foster’s Top 45 as they continue to indulge in the vacation spirit just lapping up the sheer beauty of Fiji and the plethora of recreational activities available here, in and around the islands of Namotu and Tavarua.

Although our swell forecasters appear totally validated in their predictions of no swell of any significance before Thursday, it has to be said that it is a little surprising that we are yet to see the familiar faces of three of our current pace setters of the talented Foster’s pack in Trent Munro (AUS), Kelly Slater (USA) and Chris Ward (USA).

Munro arrives tomorrow, Slater on Wednesday, and we’re not sure where Master Blaster Ward is. They will not, (almost) surely, miss a thing, but from both a competitive and journalistic viewpoint, the ‘what if’ question has to be raised. Taking things to an extreme, absolutely chauvinistically, we are dealing with a woman here – Mother Ocean, and like all members of the species, God’s finest creation woman (!) can totally have a mind of her own, and could turn at any time.

Some of the boys here consider it bordering on incredulous that their three respected peers are taking what is basically a long-shot gamble. Long odds pay the highest dividends, but in this situation, they can inversely cost a lot.

Currently leading the Foster’s ratings, Trent Munro’s personal restraint in soaking up the extra time at home with the shadow of possibilities hanging over his head is enviable if it works and the swell maps hold true, but he could otherwise be gambling one of the sport’s most prestigious positions.

“I must admit that at first, my gut was telling me that I shouldn’t be doing this, and it’s obviously relieving that there’s been nothing until now, but in the end I committed myself to taking advantage of being able to be at home. I’ll be there tomorrow, and looking forward to it,” said Munro by phone from his home at Scotts Head on the mid-north coast of NSW this morning.

“If the swell came up, I’d be absolutely spewing and devastated. It would be a horrible way to lose the ratings lead, but in the end I’ve enjoyed that extra time at home. The waiting period in Tahiti murdered me, and I just desperately needed to re-group, and the best place to do that is at home,” added the nuggetty power broker.

Munro’s stance in stating he desperately needed a break after Tahiti is totally understandable, but he’s not Robinson Crusoe on that call. Though it eventually reaped great waves and a result that almost defied comprehension in performance standards and a thrillingly climactic emotional finish, nine days of rain and the early swell drought were exacting. It was tough work!

Thanks to the dogged determination of the ASP and sponsor’s work crews, and the dedication and perseverance of the competitors, it was ultimately yet another prime feather in the ASP’s so-called ‘Dream Tour’, but it was also, most definitely, an exacting brain drain and logistical nightmare that dipped into the nightmare zone thanks to Mother Nature.

All here in Fiji are literally celebrating the fact that we’ve got a few days without swell because ALL needed a proverbial re-charge of their exhausted batteries. Along with the incredible fishing around here, or diving, floating in the pool, soaking in the Jacuzzi, getting a sweat up on the tennis court, or just plain reading a good novel in the shade, the boys are just loving it here. Morale is high, and the brotherhood is tight. There’s also still knee to waist high waves out on the Cloudbreak reef, so the boys are still keeping wet and soaring their boards as high as their spirits.

Meanwhile, over in Tahiti, our ultimately esteemed six times World Champion Robert Kelly Slater has been winding down on his own formula. The sport’s perennial king and media magnet must be on an all-time high after his absolutely stunning victory in Tahtii last week.

“To be perfectly honest, if I was never to surf another contest, I’d be perfectly fine with it,” said Slater candidly from Tahiti this morning.

“I’ve been spending time with friends, buying some stuff for my brother’s new home, and doing personal stuff. I’ve been tuned in with Steve Robertson (Contest Director) and Surfline’s Sean Collins. I arrive there on Wednesday morning!” he explained.

Heaven help anyone who tries to question Slater’s modus-operandi, but we remain a little confused just the same. Still, the bottom line is that for Slater, after almost 15 years on tour with a competition record and surfing standards beyond any other surfing athlete in history, he’s done it all before.

“The odds are admittedly long, but struth, they only need two hours of surfing to run the trials, and then we could be straight into round one,” said Joel Parkinson (AUS) with a raise of the eyebrows whilst sitting around the Tavarua pool this morning.

“Especially here in the middle of the ocean where anything can pop up,” added reigning World Champion Andy Irons (HAW).

Parko’ should know. Just two years ago he was amongst an embarrassed Aussie trio who took their time getting to Fiji when the swell maps were calling conditions would not be contestable until several days into the waiting period. As can happen, a local swell rose overnight on the eve of the waiting period and we were straight down to business, minus Parkinson, and his Gold Coast mates Mark Occhilupo and Dean Morrison.

Out of character in bungling his professional duties, and missing a heat for the first time in his legendary career that spans over two decades, Occhilupo arrived totally rattled on the second morning of the waiting period and was unable to re-group. He had to stomach a very public and humiliating second round elimination, and a 33rd placing in an event that he had won just two seasons prior. We wouldn’t wish that on anyone.