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Of all the events on tour this year, Trestles for me is shaping up as The One. There’s just so many plots and sub plots in motion here: four clear title contenders; a collection of surfers richer in progressive talent than any other in ASP history (Brother, Dane Reynolds, Toledo, Medina, Julian Wilson, Jordy, John Florence); and at the other end of the scale, a host of grizzled veterans hoping to keep their tour careers alive with a bumper backend to the season. The most interesting story that will come out of this event, however, is whether The Champ still has it.

There is simply nowhere to hide at Trestles. It is the world’s ultimate performance wave; a perfectly horseshoeing A-frame that benefits goofies and naturals in equal measure. No tubes, no bad waves, maybe a slow heat or two, but for the most part you won’t get a more even playing field in surfing. Typically, it’s those that can bring the noise with consistency that do well here. In the past that’s meant Kelly. His highest winning percentage is here, and in the time he’s been on tour, no one has surfed the place as well and as consistently.

But after 41 years, there are signs his performance curve might be starting to dip. You wouldn’t know it if you watched him in the flawless conditions for the final day of the Quik Pro, Gold Coast, nor at Cloudbreak, nor at Chopes for the Billabong Pro, but in the tour’s performance stops to date – Bells, Brazil and Keramas – he’s performed well below his best (I’m excluding the Quik Pro from the list because it was held in weird burgery Snapper for most of the event followed by pulsating Kirra on the final day).

The transparent high performance setting of Trestles will leave us in no doubt as to whether time has finally begun to take its toll on The Champ. That said, it will be a matter of pride more than anything else. His competitive mastery coupled with the fact Supertubes, Hossegor and Pipe – all likely to churn out waves of the tubular variety – means even if he does go down early here he still has more than a good chance of taking the title.

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For a winner, I can’t overlook a fully fit, injury-scorned, John Florence. This year had all the makings of a title-winning one before the ankle injury he suffered in the seasoning opening Quik Pro. Even with a big ol’ moon boot on his suss ankle ligaments, he’s still been out turkey slapping his opponents. He was the standout in Fiji – until Kelly gave it to him in the semis, he put a millennium bug in the ASP judging system at Keramas, and turned Chopes into a point break where you can get barreled twice and do link turns. As for what he’ll throw down at Trestles, only he knows. But I’m tipping it will go something like this:

Takes off on a right…winds off the bottom into a laser tail-slide hook in the pocket, straight into a reo, straight into a signature double-hand-drag roundhouse…pumps…link turn… pumps… pumps again…here comes the perfect horseshoe end-section…and…

…that last move is gonna be worth waiting around for.

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John Florence, showing his prowess at Lowers. Photo: ASP / Rowland

John Florence, showing his prowess at Lowers. Photo: ASP / Rowland

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