"Everyone has their own story, everyone has their own deal," Kolohe Andino said today after his Round Three win in the Quiksilver Pro France. "Bede's fighting because every heat could be his last. Miguel is fighting to stay on tour. It's the pointy end and everyone is so psyched."
For each competitor on the CT the year's journey is reaching its climax. Time is running out and as a result emotions are running high. "I've got the Latin in me and I just go rahhhhhhhh," continued Andino, who overcame Bede Durbidge in yet another tight heat. "It's hard to keep the emotions in check. I claimed about five waves in that heat alone, but I don't care. I decided to go all sporadic, like old-school Slater and catch everything I could and rip in as hard as possible."
He wasn't alone in expressing just how he felt. When you see the normally reserved Miguel Pupo chest- thumping and fist-pumping to the crowd, it was clear that every heat today would come spiked with adrenaline. Pupo may have punctured the World Title hopes of Adriano de Souza with two barrels in two minutes, but it was his story, his journey, that was all he was concerned about.
Owen Wright, too, was another illustration of what the higher stakes can do. If you think that simply being back surfing at the highest level is enough for him, or that his calm demeanor is indicative of a lack of passion, think again. Today proved that his ambition and his drive are set much, much higher than sheer relevance. They are aimed as high as you can go.
"I'm in the World Title race and I wanted that just as bad as Stu, who is fighting for his career," Wright said after his heat win over Stu Kennedy. "Look, it's unlucky for him, he's been ripping all year, but I wanted that, I wanted it bad." With fellow World Title contenders Jordy Smith, ADS and Julian Wilson all exiting early, it is this desire, as much as his incredible tube-riding, that still has Wright in the mix.
Even for Mick Fanning, a man who has done it all, who has nothing to prove and is neither fighting for qualification or a World Title, the passion was still palpable. With Jeremy Flores boxing him into a corner, he simply gouged each turn harder and dug deeper to win in the last 30 seconds. Flores had poured some homegrown fuel on his legendary passion, but Mick had his own story. And he made sure he's still in the event to tell it.
By the end of the day, he was one of just 12 surfers who are still able to write some more of their own chapters in the Quik Pro France. Each one believes theirs is more important than the others. Over the weekend, we will see just whose has the best ending.