We have all being waiting excitedly for the OuterKnown Fiji Pro to kick in. It’s feels like there hasn't been a Championship Tour event forever, and we’ve all been waiting for our fix, our dosage, our free commentary, and our free webcast. 

The wait has been worth it. The OK Pro kicked in with some glorious Cloudbreak rides.

What did we enjoy? Owen Wright’s bomb was great to watch. He has regained his incredible tube riding skills, and looked cool and comfortable in one of the biggest barrels of the day. Owen’s continued fine performances are always a feel-good moment to witness, and he has gained popularity and fans during his long and at-times wobbly rehab. He’s looking polished, and he’s looking hungry. 

Conner Coffin and Julian Wilson were also looking extremely strong out there, and while Julian’s performances have been well-documented over the years, Conner is only in his sophomore year and there is much we don’t know about him. After watching this heat some things we learned were that he is very confident in backhand tubes, and we learned that his backhand carving and power turns are also a very polished part of his arsenal. Sitting at 20th on the rankings, he would obviously love to move on up, and with a few more big left venues still to come (Teahupo’o / Pipe) he has plenty of opportunity for big results and ranking moves. On top of that, he’s no slouch at JBay after learning his right-hand tricks at home-break Rincon, so his future looks bright right now. 

We were also huge fans of the big guy Jordy Smith’s performance out there. When he surfed his heat there had been a rainsquall of sorts, and the waves were pretty funky and wobbly. Made no difference to the 2nd ranked surfer, as he simply chose to crack the corners of the bigger, chunkier sets instead of dragging and stalling for possibly tubes. His turns were powerful and tight on bigger set waves and he showed an aura of dominance and of confidence. 

Michel The Spartan was also up to his power tricks, and one of them included a ballet-like stretch and foot stall in the tube, an amazing tube nonetheless, and a performance that made Bourez look like a possible champion. He loves a bit of left and he thrives on a bit of juice, so if the swell fills in a bit more he could be a contender.  

By the time you read this the situations might have changed for a few of the surfers mentioned, but one surfer who has a chance of walking away from the event with massive disappointment and a recalibration of his life is the ever-popular 11 times world champ. He didn't perform out there at all. There was nothing wrong with equipment, nothing wrong with technique, and it seemed not much too wrong with his back. He just had really crap waves. 

For fans of Slater it’s almost unsettling to see him not Jedi master the waves and the heats and everything that it seems he has been able to control in the past. It’s like the mystical force that has surrounded the championship tour has been lifted, and Kelly is a real person now, and open to the foibles of the elements, of aging, of poor competition decisions and of not having the best waves of every heat land in his lap. They’re even exaggerated because we all have such massive expectations of him. When he pulls into a frothy deep tube, we still expect him to make it even though there’s no way that he could possibly. When he goes for a big air, we can sense it has no future but we still expect him to whip it further, and make it with ease. It was like a spell, and now someone has stood in front of a mirror and called Beetlejuice three times to nullify the hex. It’ll be a very sad day when he does eventually hang up his CI go –to, but for now we must just enjoy what we can, even if it is the man going for closed-out tubes, and going over the falls.  

Note: At the time of posting Kelly has just smoked Ethan Ewing in round 2!