There’s a distinct difference between a training day at the Surf Ranch and actually pulling on the jersey and going for a score – as opening day at the Surf Ranch Pro illustrated.
Yesterday, Kelly Slater noted, “Somebody is going to set that bar at a certain point and everyone after that is going to have to match that. That’s where the pressure is going to come in.”
Today, that somebody happened to be Slater.
He set said bar first thing in the morning, being in the first group to surf. After categorizing his initial two waves as “subpar,” he roared back on his second right, garnering an 8.5 from the judges.
He backed that up with a respectable 6.07 on the left for a combined score of 14.57. Holding onto the top spot on the leader board for the duration of the first day, Slater has set the pace for the rest of the event and is currently the man to beat.
“Saying to yourself, ‘Okay, I’ve gotta make this wave,’ putting yourself in the head space of competition when you’re practicing is really challenging,” explained Slater of the transition into the main event.
“We had six waves to practice on the first day, three waves the second, and two waves yesterday, so you know exactly how much time you’re going to have during those practice sessions, and if you can get into that head space, you feel like it’s the real deal at that time. That’s what I’ve been trying to do,” he added.
At the end of the first day of men’s competition, there is less than one point separating Slater, who’s in first, and Adriano De Souza, who’s in eighth – the cutoff spot to make the final.
According to the WSL Stats department, surfers are averaging 18 ridden waves per event in open ocean conditions. Today, everyone got four waves each. They will get two more the next time they surf. There are no warm-up waves, no practice sessions before heats, they have to go from a cold start and get hot quick.
The surfers that were able to lock into the zone appeared to put in the most consistent performances, while others struggled with nerves, mistakes, unforced errors, and a panel of judges that were remarkably stingy with high scores.
Young Brazilian Ian Gouveia, Tomas Hermes and Yago Dora are currently sitting second through fourth, respectively.
Gouveia relied on consistency, earning a pair of seven-point rides, while Dora put together one of the most inspired waves of the day, complete with a couple of airs and a series of dynamic maneuvers on the open face.
But it was Californian Pat Gudauskas the put in the most progressive maneuver of the day. Coming out of a spinning left-hand barrel he launched a tight rodeo flip, stomped the landing, almost dug his nose, then pulled it together to end the wave.
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