The Telstra Drug Aware Pro at Margaret River in Western Australia swung into gear this morning with the top seeds hitting the water in the Round of 96. If this sounds a little early for the main guys to be surfing then welcome to the new Prime format.
For some of the Top 32, having to surf four man heats was a bit of a shock. Adrian Buchan was in the first men's heat of the day and while he advanced, he admitted it hadn't been easy surfing with four other guys when I asked him as he left the water.
"That's exactly what was on my mind when I was paddling out. It was tough and you really have to battle when it's four man heats. I'm not used to that after being on the World Tour. Normally I'd surf my heat where you can be patient, gain priority and have the pick of the waves but it's not like that in four man heats. You can sit there and be patient and some guy will paddle up your inside and get the next wave."
Ace was involved in the first interference call of the day when he and Germany's Marlon Lipke paddled for the same wave.
"You really have to get involved in the battle and fight for waves," explained Ace. "I was definitely bumping rails out there a few times but I didn't come all the way over here to WA to give guys waves. Margs (Margaret River) is never a tea party when it's clean and peaky so I'm just stoked to get through my heat."
Fellow World Tour surfers Jadson Andre and Pat Gudauskas made it through while a lot of the Top 32 guys had a very tough day. Adriano de Souza went out on a double interference call, Adam Melling couldn't find the right waves, Quiksilver Pro standout Alejo Muniz was smoked by aging air specialist Chris Ward while Owen Wright couldn't find a wave to get rid of a 3.33 point in his score line. Wright was surfing in an all goofyfoot heat with contest wildcard Ry Craike, Frenchman Marc Lacomare and Brazilian Wiggolly Dantas. Wright sat for over 15 minutes, half the heat, waiting for a scoring wave that never came. Lacomare and Dantas made it through.
While the top seeds were doing it tough, the young guys were stepping up. Australian Mitch Crews, who'd come into the event with a 'wildcard' for winning the Australasian Junior Series showed everyone how it was done. He officially shed his 'junior' tag today celebrating his 21st birthday.
There might not be much time to party with his traveling partner and good friend Jack Freestone who also got through today because the swell is forecast to hit 15' plus in two days time. With the swell rising the rest of the Round of 96 will be run tomorrow with guys like Mick Fanning, Kelly Slater and Taj Burrow hitting the water.