Rottnest Island is never going to be Bells or Snapper or even Margarets, but right now it’s as good as we’ve got. There are worse things to do than watch two world-class surfers duel on a mediocre, split peak; particularly when the match-ups are juicy. Besides, when else will you get to hear twenty different WSL surfers say the word ‘Quokka’ in different accents.

Jordy Smith and Julian Wilson were first up in round sixteen. Once upon a time these two were surfing wunderkinds; kid dynamos who were setting the bar for the best freesurfing in the world. However, suddenly this felt like an old-school battle between two aging sluggers who were hanging in there and trying to keep their title hopes alive. Right now both Jordy and Julian fall firmly into the inglorious ‘best never to win a crown’ category.

No one threw any knock-out blows in the heat and Julian got the nod on points in a close encounter. As it happens the top-five-surf-off scenario gives these two a chance of being contenders. They don’t look like outright minor-premiers (number one before the surf-off) right now but if they make the five and have a good day at Trestles then they have a shot. Jordy was just inside the top five at the beginning of this event and Julian was way back at 17. He’ll need to get his Quokka Rock on in this event if he wants to keep the title dream alive.

Picture the scenario for Morgan Cibilic. Leo Fioravanti, a fiery Italian hustler, is shoulder to shoulder with you when the first rideable split peak comes through in your heat. He can trash talk you in about six languages and paddles like a Ferrari. Somehow Morgan Cibilic out-muscled a hustler and claimed the first wave without incurring an interference – which was a near thing. Morgs basically won the heat right there. Beyond that moment he had the psychological edge and manufactured a rhythm that Leo could not match. “I was backing myself,” he later told Stace Galbraith. Right now all Australian fans are backing Morgan too because he’s looking like their best hope of a top-five finisher. His match-up with Julian in the quarter-finals will be a critical moment for both surfers. Julian needs the win to stay alive. Morgan needs to unequivocally confirm his status as a contender with a second semi-finals birth for the year.

When Tracks contributor Liam O’Brien (check out his written work here) hit the water with Seth Moniz it felt like the speedometer went up twenty km/hr. Moniz’s surfing has a frenetic, skimming stone quality, which makes it look engaging when everything comes together. However, at times it’s a tad catchy and disjointed, like a dancer who has missed a few steps but is trying to keep the performance going. O’Brien possesses similar flair but is a shade smoother. While not an official CT surfer you could almost put him on par with Moniz. Today, the young Mark Richards look-alike again proved that he can rumble with the best by teeing off on the bigger sections and overwhelming Moniz. Liam is through to the quarters. If he goes further in this event perhaps the WSL will keep tossing wildcards his way as they did with Mikey Wright? 

“I thought I’d be scraping the barrel to get through a heat at this event,” said the self-deprecating O’Brien post-heat. Hopefully, the big result has instilled a little more self-belief in the understated Queenslander who is a big chance against Michel Bourez or Miguel Pupo, his two possible opponents in the quarters.

Still a while to go before we ordain a king and queen of Quokka Island. The first three events in the men’s division of the Oz leg belong to a Brazilian surfer. There are still five Brazilian names left in the draw. The question is, can anyone halt their domination?