Can Brett Simpson upset defending Hurley Pro champion Kelly Slater?
Will Brett Simpson the wild card upstage Kelly Slater the nine-time world champion and winner of the Hurley Pro for two years running?
Can Rob Machado, the iconic and wild-haired free surfer, also entered as a wild card, eliminate ASP World Tour ratings leader Joel Parkinson and help open the door for good pal Slater, who is ranked No. 8, to climb back into the world title picture?
These are among questions that will be answered when the third round of the competition resumes, perhaps as early as Tuesday morning, at Lower Trestles in San Clemente.
Simpson, who is ranked eighth on the World Qualifying Series circuit and hopeful of qualifying for the 2010 World Tour, is capable of posting high scores. But he's up against a living legend in Slater who, despite a slow start to the season, is back in top form and seemingly intent on making a statement.
Slater was so dominant during his first-round heat that he exchanged boards midway through for the purpose of experimentation, and still won easily and advanced directly to the third round.
Simpson, however, won his first-round heat against Australian World Tour veterans Taj Burrow, who is ranked fourth, and Dean Morrison, who is ranked 17th.
Simpson, 24, from Huntington Beach, is among a handful of Southern California surfers poised to qualify for next year's World Tour and says, "We've worked hard on the WQS and I feel our time has come."
Machado, 35, is a star off the competition circuit and this fall will be featured in a Warner Brothers movie titled "The Drifter," said to be a cinematographic masterpiece (Click here for a YouTube trailer). It would not be a huge upset if the goofy-footer from Cardiff upstages Parkinson, who advanced to the third round via the second-round losers' bracket.
Other Southern California surfers hopeful of advancing to the fourth round: Dane Reynolds of Ventura versus Ben Dunn of Australia, and Damien Hobgood of Encinitas versus Tiago Pires of Portugal. Taylor Knox of Carlsbad won his third-round heat Monday afternoon before competition was suspended. Knox beat Greg Emslie of Australia.
Not advancing were Bobby Martinez of Santa Barbara, Tim Reyes of Huntington Beach, Nathaniel Curran of Oxnard and Chris Ward of San Clemente.-- Pete Thomas
Top photo: Brett Simpson displays new-age maneuvers in a first-round heat triumph that allowed him to advance directly to the third round of the Hurley Pro. Credit: Hurley.
Bottom photo: Josh Kerr carves a cutback en route to defeating fellow Australian Dayyan Neve in the contest's second round. Credit: © ASP/ CI/ ROWLAND via GETTY IMAGES