Looking only at the final results of the Quiksilver Pro, you’d be forgiven for thinking nothing had changed at the top of surfing’s competitive tree.
In the womens final, 2005 winner Steph Gilmore surfed against a young up-and-comer from Narabeen named Laura Enever.
In the blokes final, Taj Burrow, last year’s winner, squared off against Adriano de Souza, 2009 runner-up to Taj Burrow.
For casual observers of surfing, the presence of vets like Joel Parkinson, Josh Kerr, Kelly Slater and Adrian Buchan in the quarter finals would lead you to assume that, as 2012 kicks off with the first World Tour event, it’s business as usual as the same big names square off.
But you’d be wrong. There’s a new crop of Tour surfers who aren’t just nipping at the heels of Taj, Parko Kerrzy and Kelly, they’re right there in the mix with ’em. And for guys like Taj and Parko, the fact that they’re amongst the best surfers to have never won a world title is small consolation. Both men are into their 30s now, and while Kelly Slater is pushing 40 and shows no signs of slowing down, Kelly’s a freak, and not everyone can be like Kelly. Taj and Joel want that title. Badly. Guys with their talent don’t want to retire with the “best never to…” tag around their necks, but with guys like Owen Wright, Jordy Smith, Julian Wilson and John John Florence right behind them, the relief they must have felt to still be able to stamp their authority all over the first event of the year must have been huge.
These young guys are already ushering in an incredibly exciting new approach to riding waves in contests, and it’s now extremely rare to see a surfer doing safety turns to secure a mid-range score for the win. Everyone’s going for broke, and it’s shaping up to be an extremely interesting year. The Parkos and Taj’s of the world know they don’t have many rolls of the dice left, while Owen, Julian, Kolohe Andino etc want to show they’re every bit as good as their heroes. Roll on Bells.