Surf's up for elite
THE world's best surfers are in town to bust down the door of the ASP Tour opener, the Quiksilver (men's) and Roxy (women's) competitions at Snapper Rocks.
The Super Bank was looking sand-deprived up until the last couple of days but frantic sand pumping courtesy of the sand bypass has once again ensured the banks are in place for the action which starts today.
The next important ingredient is the swell which is forecast to increase over the weekend, offering contestable waves for day one of the competition.
Eleven-time world champ and defending champion, Kelly Slater, who has won at Snapper three times previously, will be the guy everyone is watching to see if the world's greatest surfing competitor can reap the goods again.
Always coy about whether he will retire, Slater will no doubt be motivated to take on the challenge yet again and another win here at Snapper will see him eye a remarkable 12th world title.
"The question (on retiring) comes up each year and each year I don't know," he said.
"Part of me wants to do other stuff, but sometimes the tour is fun. I'm just not too stressed about it."
It's this nonchalant, no-pressure approach that has worked wonders for King Kelly and now at 40 years of age will be Snapper Rocks be his last stand?
Former two-times event champion and four-times world runner-up, Joel Parkinson would like nothing better than to come up against Slater at Snapper.
"I've never surfed against Kelly at Snapper Rocks and I would love to have that opportunity," said Parko, who took the King down at Burleigh Point in 2002 and went on to win at Snapper.
Last year Parkinson came up against South African powerhouse Jordy Smith, another potential world champion, who ended the local's favourite run.
Smith, a former runner-up at the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast (2010), is looking forward to tearing into the high-performance right-hander of Snapper Rocks and is hungry for victory.
"The Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast is one of my favourite events," Smith said.
"It's the first event of the year, there's no pressure, everyone's surfing hard and the waves are usually good."
Smith has established himself as a serious threat on the ASP stage and while he feels the veteran campaigners will return in their usually-dangerous form, he thinks additional young talent will make this year's world title race an interesting one.
"I think the world title race will always have the usual suspects, you can never count out Mick (Fanning) and Joel (Parkinson), and there's always Kelly (Slater)," Smith said.
"But I think you're going to see some young guns in there too. I also think Julian (Wilson) is going to go pretty hard this year and give it a crack. He's been training super hard."
The next generation of young chargers ready to rattle the cage include teenagers Brazilian's Gabriel Medina and Miguel Pupo, California's Kolohe Andino and Hawaii's John John Florence.
The Roxy Pro women's will be just as close with the notable frontrunners, Hawaii's new world women's champion and defending event champion Carissa Moore, world number two Sally Fitzgibbons (Kiama), four-time world champ Stephanie Gilmore (Kingscliff), Tyler Wright (Lennox Head) and Hawaii's Coco Ho.
"I'm now definitely the hunted after been the hunter and it's a different sort of pressure," Moore says.
"But it's something I'm learning to deal with."
The competition is given a 10-day waiting period which, if the waves are pumping, can run in five days for both the men's and women's.