The opening day of the Drug Aware Pro Margaret River presented by O'Neill heralded the return of former World Champion Sunny Garcia (HAW) who destroyed the stormy, two-metre conditions at Surfers Point.
With more than 250 of the hottest surfers converging on the famed West Australian break for the 6-star prime-rated ASP World Qualifying Series (WQS) event for Men and 5-star Women's event, the surfing was of the highest calibre, despite the difficult conditions.
Without doubt, the highlight of the opening day of competition was the return of 2000 ASP World Champion, Sunny Garcia who drew upon every bit of experience and knowledge en route to an impressive Round One victory.
Garcia, who has returned back to the professional surfing arena after an imposed hiatus, was in ripping form with an awesome display of power surfing - producing the highest wave score of the event, a 9.17 (out of a possible 10). "It was challenging, but really fun out there," he said.
With an aim of requalifying for the Dream Tour in 2009, the 38-year-old is focused and looking forward to the gruelling WQS schedule, and all that lies ahead. "My main aim for this year is to definitely requalify," said Garcia. "At the start of the year I didn't realise how tough it would be, but the level of surfing that is being produced from all the younger kids is awesome. It is definitely going to be harder than I had anticipated. It's been really good to meet the younger guys and get to know them - something I really didn't get the chance to do when I was on the WCT," he mused.
"It's a lot different to what I remember. There aren't as many big personalities and characters like there used to be. But, the kids today have so much energy. It's really fun for me to embrace that in my surfing."
When asked about the prospect of a considerable increase in swell size, Garcia welcomed the opportunity to compete in the bigger conditions. "This place (Margaret River) really suits my style of surfing - especially if the waves pick up. I'm really looking forward to doing well at this event and surfing as best I can."
Led by some young Australian competitors, the early morning action was electric, with competitors battling towards a share of the combined prize purse of US$165,000 and valuable ratings points.
The women's action was equally as compelling with Alana Blanchard (HAW) carrying on her excellent early season form to advance to the next round. Blanchard, who is currently second on the WQS women's ratings, was impressive in her Round One heat despite the difficult conditions: "It was so tough out there. I couldn't hear a thing out there because it was so windy, but I am really happy to have gotten through," she said.
Tomorrow heralds the increase of swell, with conditions forecast to reach death-defying sizes throughout the week, which will be sure to test the skills and courage of all surfers and be a great spectacle for all.