Fanning homes in on crown
MICK Fanning's home break threw him the wave of the day as he cruised through his first heat at the world surfing championship tour event at Snapper Rocks at the weekend.
The Tweed Heads surfer streaked out of the barrel to claim a near-perfect 9.33, the highest wave score Saturday, on his way to winning the heat and advancing to the third round of the Quiksilver Pro.
“I just feel really relaxed and I feel real confident. My boards are great and my body's feeling really loose and strong and I'm not stressing out,” the two-time world champion said.
Earlier in the week Fanning said an off-season at home had done him a world of good.
“Everything is feeling really good right now, being home for a long time. The second half of the year last year was really hectic. We had some really big ups and downs.
“It was just good to come home and get grounded again.”
There is a reason Fanning and fellow Coolangatta and two-time event winner Joel Parkinson have been so successful at the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast in recent years – local knowledge and support.
Fanning's expertise at his local break came to the fore when he scored an almost-perfect ride in a three-second barrel in round one.
“It is our spot. It is simple,” he said.
“Just growing up here, we have been surfing here ever since we could really turn and I think just having that local knowledge, knowing which ones are going to be good and knowing which ones are going to keep running after the first section, I guess it is invaluable.
“And the whole of the Gold Coast gets behind us. There is no segregation, everyone is there for all of us, so it is awesome.”
Defending Quiksilver Pro champ Taj Burrow also won his first heat, overcoming nerves in the process.
“This is the first one of the year so I was definitely a little nervous, but it was just the right amount of nervous and excited, I think,” he said.
“I felt really good, especially opening with a high score.”
Reigning world champion Kelly Slater went through without difficulty but remained non-committal about his desire to chase an 11th world crown this year.
“Until I make a decision not to, I am, so when I make a decision not to I'll let you know,” Slater said.
Meanwhile, Parkinson said he had shrugged off last year's horrific injury, when a fin sliced through his heel, and was glad to have started this year's campaign with a round-one win.
“It's good to be back at my local beach. You know your way around it, you know how it breaks and you know its moods,” he said.
“It feels good to be back at work.”
Frenchman Jeremy Flores, who was disqualified from a pro-surfing event at Burleigh Heads a week ago for fighting, withdrew from the Quiksilver Pro after tearing a knee ligament during a practice session on Friday.
He is hoping to be fit for the second event of the year at Bells Beach in seven weeks.
Australian surfers won nine of the 12 heats on the opening day of the men's contest.