Rank the world's most crowded surf spots and one remarkable fact stands out: the Superbank alone owns five spots. When it's not ruler-edge perfect the bank has several distinct takeoff zones, and every one of them is packed before dawn.
The fight for a few waves at Snapper is something even 11-time-world champion Kelly Slater struggles with, but pros don't like to be caught complaining. After all, whining from the deck of the cruise ship doesn't go over well. But warmup sessions at the Superbank are more like UFC fights, unless, of course, there happens to be a UFC fight on somewhere.
That said, watching Stephanie Gilmore work the crowd is pretty damn inspiring. Forget her surfing for a bit, we'll get to that later. Steph's ability to part the sea of bronze when she paddles is like nothing I've ever seen - and it's a testament to the respect she's earned around here. Even Mick Fanning and Joel Parkinson don't get the same respect.
As for Steph's surfing here's all you need to know: it's now must-see stuff for all of the men on Tour. On Saturday, for example, Filipe Toledo was watching Steph's Round Two heat from the comfort of his hotel room. As she stroked gracefully into one of Snapper's green gems, and proceeded to unloaded with a flurry of precision carves and vicious hacks, Toledo couldn't restrain himself, he was shouting at the television in excitement.
Meanwhile, on social media, men were also blowing her up.
Steph's Round Two performance in particular would have put her through half the matches on the men's side. The gap isn't closing. At Snapper it's gone, thanks mostly to Steph.
But she's definitely not alone.
Carissa Moore is equally inspiring. Tyler Wright's variety pack of moves is creating a ton of chatter, and Sally Fitzgibbons and Courtney Conlogue are routinely raising eyebrows. Indeed, if any of those five were to win the world title this year it wouldn't come as a surprise.
That said, there were plenty of surprises Saturday as the Roxy Pro kicked off the 2016 season for the ladies. The women got through three rounds in the fun surf, which means they're well into the elimination, and the biggest name to fall was Fitzgibbons.
The would-be contender was upset by wild card Bronte Macaulay, the legacy of former tour star Dave Macaulay, who climbed to Number 3 in the world in the late 80s on the back of steely nerves and a relentless backhand attack. His daughter seems to have inherited the gene.
It was undoubtedly a confidence booster for Macaulay, because the see-saw battle went to the wire, where she delivered a big score in the final moments. Macaulay will be meeting up with a very in-form Malia Manuel in her Round Four match.
The women's rookie class of Chelsea Tuach and Keely Andrew earned a healthy bit of respect with their performances. Chelsea Tuach was just one-point shy of Carissa Moore in her opening round as CT competitor, while bettering Isabella Nichols. While her Round Two match against Johanne Defay didn't go nearly as well, but she's leaving with her head up.
Keely Andrew had a bigger impact. She got the nod over Gilmore in Round One, feeding the fire for Steph's aforementioned Round Two performance. Andrew nearly leaped directly into the quarterfinals with her Round Three performance. When the heat ended the judges had her in the lead, but they still had two more scores to drop for Bianca Buitendag and Tatiana Weston-Webb. A few minutes later Andrew was in last, but still alive.
By day's end Tyler Wright, Carissa Moore, Courtney Conlogue and Tatiana Weston-Webb had all advanced to the quarterfinals. Gilmore is up against Niki Van Dijk in Round 5, while Manuel will face Macaulay, Sage Erickson will face Keely Andrew, and Bianca Buitendag will square off with Johanne Defay.