The best surfers in the world are going at it this week in the Hurley Pro at Trestles, a rare chance for many in Orange County to see these guys competing for a world championship.
The Hurley Pro is one of 10 contests in the Assn. of Surfing Professional World Championship Tour, and it's the only one in Southern California. There's also a contest in Santa Cruz this season, but the rest are in the far-off exotic locales such as Fiji, Australia, French Polynesia, Brazil, Portugal, and Hawaii.
There are only four contests left after the Hurley Pro, so this one will go a long way in determining the world champ. Mick Fanning entered the contest leading the World Tour standings, ahead Joel Parkinson, John John Florence and Kelly Slater, who are second, third and fourth, respectively.
They were able to get in the first two rounds of the contest Sunday and Monday, but surfing was called off because of small waves Tuesday. Forecasters predicted a solid south swell to come in later in the week.
The first two rounds saw the whitewash of a few SoCal surfers, as San Clemente's Patrick Gudauskas and Kolohe Andino, and Santa Barbara's Conner Coffin, were eliminated in Round 2.
Huntington Beach's Brett Simpson, though, advanced into Round 3 with a Round 2 win over Australia's Kieren Perrow, 15.83 to 12.70.
"I was stoked," Simpson said. "I like a lot of waves and I like to get my feet in the wax. KP [Perrow] is a great competitor, a great surfer and he did what I expected, which was to wait for good ones.
"I took my chances on some smaller ones and the judges rewarded me and I'm glad. I just threw out that bad heat yesterday and I was able to find those little ones that I could link a few turns in on."
Waves permitting, Simpson, who began the contest ranked tied for 18th in the World Tour standings, was scheduled to go up against South Africa's Jordy Smith Wednesday in Round 3, a touch matchup for sure.
Slater won his three-man heat in Round 1, advancing directly to Round 3. But it wasn't easy because Slater hasn't been in the water much lately.
"I've got to be honest, I'm not surprised it was a slow one because I had Taylor Knox in my heat," Slater said. "He's had the most restarts ever at Trestles before for some reason.
"I wanted to win that first one because I haven't been surfing that much lately. I surfed all day [Saturday] and I'm kind of tired today. The last few weeks I haven't surfed a whole lot and I'm trying to figure out new boards."
Fanning also won his three-man heat in Round 1, advancing directly to Round 3, but he knows it will not be easy to hold onto his World Tour standings lead. Fanning, though, is no slouch at Trestles. He won the Hurley Pro in 2009.
"The race is really tight," Fanning said. "With everyone counting a few good results and in a really good rhythm at the moment, Joel, Kelly, John John, Taj [Burrow], you've got to just keep trying and just keep plugging away.
"You've got to just look at track records and Kelly is probably the gnarliest guy, he just knows the wave so well. Then there are guys like John John and Kolohe lives here and surfs amazing out here, so those are probably the main guys I look out for."
The championship heat is scheduled for Saturday.
The ASP contest in Santa Cruz is the ninth in the 10-event World Tour. But it isn't until Nov. 1, so the surfers will have to deal with some chilly water.
And hopefully, that will be the worst of their concerns.
Last weekend there were great white shark sightings in Monterey Bay off Santa Cruz and neighboring towns.
It was first spotted by a group on a whale watching tour.
"People were amazed," Kate Cummings told the Santa Cruz Sentinel. Cummings is the co-owner of Blue Ocean Whale Watch Tour.
"They were really, really shocked," Cummings said. "At first they were really confused because they could just see this dark spot in the water. That's when everyone — their jaws just dropped."
A shark research foundation sent helicopters into the air over the weekend and spotted a few of them throughout Monterey Bay. One of them was close enough to the pier at Seacliff State Beach in nearby Aptos that "somebody could have cannon-balled off the railing [of the pier] onto [the shark]," said Sean Van Sommeran of the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation.
According to a study by a marine biologist at UC Davis, there are 219 adult and juvenile white sharks that swim regularly off the central California coast.
JOE HAAKENSON is an Orange County-based sports writer and editor. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun