The Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast presented by Land Rover is just a few short days away from commencing and the opening event of the season will be headlined by none other than reigning 10-time ASP World Champion Kelly Slater (USA), 39.
The iconic natural-footer utilized the off-season to recharge in his adopted homes of Hawaii and California, working on equipment and taking advantage of the winter swell season.
“I’ve been hanging in Hawaii and getting boards sorted out in California and having down time,” Slater said. “Surfing myself out most of January was fun.”
Historically coy about his annual plans, Slater maintains that his agenda for 2011 is still undecided, but is motivated to open the season up in high-performance righthand pointbreak of Snapper Rocks.
“The waves at Snapper wake me up enough or motivation but I’d love to get another win at the Quiksilver Pro,” Slater said. “Either a great way to go out or to start another campaign! I can’t honestly answer that (my plans for the year) right now. I’ve thought about doing a farewell aloha tour and saying bye to the tour and I’ve thought about retiring after this event for real.”
The ASP Top 34 comprises the best surfers on the planet and Slater is conscious of the increased level of talent in 2011. Utilizing a variety of varying world-class venues, the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast could see the world’s best contest anything from Snapper Rocks to Duranbah.
“It will depend on where the waves show up,” Slater said. “If we’re at the beach break, guys like Julian (Wilson) and Josh (Kerr) will be most dangerous. The points bring out the best tubes and carving typically, but everyone surfs well at snapper. Should be good to watch.”
Slater will face Kai Otton (AUS), 31, and one of the event wildcards in the opening round of competition.
Joel Parkinson (AUS), 29, finished last season 24th in the ASP World Title rankings, following a near career-ending injury that saw the stylish natural-footer sit out the bulk of the season.
“I guess the benefit now is that I’m hungry – not only to compete, but just to surf,” Parkinson said. “That’s one of the key things with surfing on the tour, you’ve got to not only stay hungry to surf throughout a whole event, you’ve got to stay hungry over the course of a whole year. The way I’m feeling at the moment, I’m going to paddle out for my last heat of the year at Pipe even hungrier than I was when I paddled out for my first heat at Snapper. That’s how I’m feeling, that’s how hungry I am to surf right now. And the thing now is that I’ve got three kids, so it’s not like I can go surfing five times a day. I’ve got to pick and choose my windows to surf in and I have to make the most of them.”
A perennial ASP World Title contender, the Australian has yet to secure his inaugural crown despite several near misses.
“It’s a big year for me for sure.” Parkinson said. “I turn 30 pretty soon. After what’s happened over the past couple of years, after the injuries and disappointments, if I can surf every event this year at 100% fitness, I’d consider that a victory in itself. And if I can do that I’m confident I’m going to be challenging. But I don’t dwell on what’s happened to me. I’ve learned to just worry about the 30 minutes of the next heat in front of me. It doesn’t even matter who I’m surfing against, doesn’t matter what happened last year, doesn’t matter that I’m turning 30. It’s all about those next 30 minutes. Then it’s all about stringing a lot of good 30 minutes together.”
With his sights set on the 2011 ASP World Title, Parkinson is well aware of the roadblocks that exist in the form of his fellow elite campaigners.
“I think Jordy (Smith) will be a lot more mature in the way he surfs heats, just on the back of the confidence he’ll take from last year,” Smith said. “He’s an amazing surfer and he put together a really good season last year. And Mick’s surfing on the trip we just did blew me away. You can see he’s been working pretty hard on big airs and stuff the judges will really notice.”
Parkinson will battle the South American duo of Adriano de Souza (BRA), 24, and Alejo Muniz (BRA), 21, in Round 1 of the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast.
Julian Wilson (AUS), 22, 2011 ASP World Title rookie, has long been touted as one of the most progressive surfers in the world and his 11th hour qualification heroics from Hawaii last winter cemented his position amongst the world’s elite this season.
“It feels really rewarding to have qualified,” Wilson said. “I’ve always had my dreams set on making the World Tour and now I’ve accomplished it. There’s only one place to be if you have a dream of chasing world titles.”
The young natural-footer from Australia’s Sunshine Coast is easing into his first full year on tour, and is excited about opening the season at Snapper Rocks.
“It’s very cliché but my goal this season is to take it one heat at a time, enjoy where I’m at and surf some amazing waves with only one other guy out,” Wilson said. “Snapper is such a fun wave and is my favourite event of the year. I grew up surfing the points at Noosa (two hours North) and even though they’re not always as good, I seem to feel at home in those kind of waves.”
Wilsonwill take on Adrian Buchan (AUS), 28, and Heitor Alves (BRA), 28, in the opening heat of the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast.
Dane Reynolds (USA), 25, who finished the 2010 ASP World Title season in 4th, has withdrawn from the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee as a result of an injury he had suffered in Hawaii in early December. He started rehab the week after surgery, and is expecting be back in the water sometime in mid to late March. Cory Lopez (USA), 33, will be serving as his replacement at the event.
The Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast will run from February 26 through March 9, 2011 and will be webcast LIVE via http://www.quiksilverpro.com