Saturday began as an emotional one at Margaret River. Before the first horn blew Taj Burrow announced his CT retirement plans on the morning show, the gist of which amounts to him throwing a good size farewell party in Fiji this year. The 37-year-old has been a central figure on the elite tour for more than 18 years, and though his smile is still beaming as big and bright as ever, he's happiest at home now with his new family.
That time marches on isn't news. But Taj, like Kelly Slater, seemed not to be affected by it...until recently. The latest injection of tour talent has exposed kinks in the armor of kings. Last year Taj fell out of the Top 10 for the first time since 2001. Today, Kelly Slater went 0-2 during his heats, losing a close one to Kolohe Andino in the morning, and a not-so close one to Italian Leonardo Fioravanti in Round Two. Three events in, Kelly Slater has a single heat win on the season...against a wildcard at Bells.
Meanwhile, there's a ton of fresh-faced talent making inroads this year, as well as a number of young veterans gaining traction as doors fly open. Round Two saw plenty of both...
Kolohe Andino stuck to his guns in his Round One match against Kelly Slater and Miguel Pupo. Andino's early exit at Bells seemed a distant memory.
Jordy Smith put on a powerful performance in the bumpy conditions, seemingly unfazed by the elements that were creating drama for his competitors.
They'll be raging in Rome on Saturday morning, when news of Leonardo Fioravanti's victory over Kelly Slater hits Italian shores.
If Matty Wilko can come from nowhere to win back-to-back, it sort of begs the question...why can't Buchan? He might be thinking the same thing.
Rookie Caio Ibelli is gaining fans with each passing day on tour. His violent attack on the wind-driven rights today was pace setting.
John John Florence has been lighting things up in and out of his jersey at Margaret River. He ripped his way into Round Three with a textbook performance on Saturday.
Alejo Muniz returned to action for the first time since being injured in October of last year. He celebrated with a heat win.
Stuart Kennedy was surfing incredibly well during his match with Banting, but a couple ill-timed tumbles cost him the heat, and handed him his first early-loss of the season.