I’m up on the top flight of the Explorer vessel watching Taj Burrow tear down the reef faster than an outboard zodiac. Above the corals, an end section folds into transition. Taj hits it quick, lobs his Phil Grace 6’3’’ singley, and catches the cool tropical breeze.

Teebs showers the bungalows in round one. (Scott Sean)

When I say his 6’3’’ singley, what I really mean is Jake Patto’s 6’3’’ singley, because Taj hasn’t given it back since winning the 2016 Four Seasons Champions Trophy, and it doesn’t seem like the reigning champ will let go of the Snake’s sled any time soon, because when you bomb more eights than anchors into the diamond sea, why would ya? Snake’s cool with it though ­– on one condition – that he not lay a finger on the jumbo lingerie chick glued to the stringer, a core oath that’s binding for Teebs after he posts a total 16.77 in heat one to jump ahead.

Barracuda Issaey. (Sean Scott)
Maya Gabeira jumps into the warm water dream. (Sean Scott)

I see local legend Kuda Issaey knot his TF classic into a perfect sheepshank, but without a connecting ride he’s chasing coconuts on combo island courtesy of Ceejay Hobgood and Mob Machado. I see Maya Gabeira slide the face sideways with more lift than a spinnaker gust and a full smile from ear to ear.

Rosco Williams with a bongo jam solo that’d rival the cabin crew aboard the Explorer. (Sean Scott)

I see Rosco Williams’ semi against Ceejay. He knifes a wide swinger that throws out a flawless three foot tube on the inside bend, and while he pins his 6’0’’ swallow to the wall, it’s an impossible make even for the J-Floz pit captain. Rob Machado shaped this board for him and I’m later kicked by the Rosco deadpan, “not a kink to those curves, that I noticed” he’d say of the Mob’s job after being blitzed by a certain 2001 World Champ.

Ceejay Hobgood en route to the final. (Sean Scott)

I see Ceejay Hobgood go to town on the best poké bowl he’s had all week, and although it ain’t lunchtime, for sure it’s high noon on this guy’s dial, because he’s given a big tick to the 5’6’’ CI MSF hybrid that bore him a final. But it’s the self-made classic Rob’s weaving right now that’s really got me jazzed! Edges run hard to the nose in true retro style, with an outta sight looking feeder channel! And at 5’6’’ I see this low volume squash has loads of release when the Mob curls up a seamless loop on rail, then another, then another, then a grind on the hangers to lock down an 8.17. This is the semi against Taj Burrow, and it’s a deadset belter! So here we are under the shine of equatorial sun, and Taj has stamped said air on his lone dorsal to score past five, but he needs to hustle. Rob’s bagged a couple of his own. A 5.17 and a 6.50. A pulse hits, and Taj is too wide. In slips the Mob, sending showers, thanks to the brisk offshore whistling through the palms. He spins his silk down the line, more pocket than figure eights, but the judges award him one anyway, leaving Taj to chase 7.68 on countdown. A school of fish flick through the channel, and I realize I’m hungry. The horderves appear, as if by magic. Biscuits, fruit salad, egg sliders, sushi, you name it! I wash down a coffee and return to the ring, rolling my mits between camera, phone, fruit salad, sandwiches and two hands high in the air when Mob Machado drops another eight against Ceejay, matching Taj on the days high scores and looking like a true sheik prince on these dreamy gifts of swell, sent by either Allah or Poisidon or Jeebus or some other Sultan. But certainly not by any smart mouthed fortune cookie. Ceejay scopes an outside grower, turns late, tucks rail and vanishes. Then reappears, as the whole thing pinches him up like a giant crab claw. That was the one. Ceejay 15.33. Mob 15.67.

The Mob and his self made money maker. Three gees to be exact. (Sean Scott)

The Mob wins! Rob vibes out like an exploding moonbeam as he collects his 3k prize and thanks the crew. Smiling Ceejay takes home 1k, just as stoked and everyone hits the sundown cocktails super juiced for the Twin Fin showdown tomorrow! Sun melts to hot tub. Porpoises coo their songs of love. A blundering surf writer sweeps the smorgasboard into his suitcase and orders a beer.

Hugh Wyllie