The world's best surfers have arrived in Australia for the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast, the inaugural event of the 2013 ASP World Championship Tour, which takes place from March 2nd.
Reigning ASP World Champion Joel Parkinson only clinched a long sought after maiden world title nine weeks ago, but is already noticing the change in his pre-season preparation.
"It's been a fairly hectic off season," Parkinson said. "I've certainly enjoyed my title win, but there have been a lot of requests from media and just having everyone congratulate me. It's a nice problem to have, but after a few weeks of it, I was keen to get back in the water and just focus on my surfing."
While the transition of becoming ASP World Champion has required some adjusting, the stylish natural-footer admits that the win has been refreshing and he's entering 2013 with a relaxed mindset.
"Winning the title has definitely removed a big amount of pressure for me," explained the Australian. "I feel great now and loose and ready for the season. I'm healthy and keen to surf at 110% every wave and every heat."
Parkinson's world-class fitness and razor-sharp surfing were on display last week when he took the win at the ASP 6-Star Burton Toyota Pro in Newcastle. Having since returned home to the Gold Coast for the commencement of the 2013 ASP World Championship Tour, the ASP world number one is excited about doing battle amidst the venues he is so familiar with.
"Starting the season at home is an advantage," he said. "I feel the most comfortable here. I have my family and friends and support system here. I love the waves and feel like I surf my best out here."
Although Parkinson is a clear favorite at the opening event of the season, this year's incarnation of the ASP Top 34 represents one of the more deadly competitive fields in ASP history.
"Guys like Mick (Fanning) are always a threat at any venue. Taj (Burrow) always does well here. You can never discount Kelly (Slater). There's also a huge crop of young guys - John John (Florence), Julian (Wilson), Gabriel (Medina). You could go on and on. The tour is about as dangerous as it's ever been."
Parkinson will face compatriot Matt Wilkinson and an event wildcard in Round 1.
Dane Reynolds has been awarded one of two wildcards into the competition. The second wildcard will be allocated to the winner of the 18-man Moskova Trials on Friday.
Miguel Pupo and Fredrick Patacchia have both withdrawn from competition due to injury and have been replaced by Patrick Gudauskas and Willian Cardoso respectively.
When the competition commences, defending Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast champion Taj Burrow, Bede Durbidge and Raoni Monteiro will contest Heat 1.
Round One match-ups:
Heat 1: Taj Burrow (AUS), Bede Durbidge (AUS), Raoni Monteiro (BRA)
Heat 2: Adriano de Souza (BRA), Travis Logie (ZAF), Dusty Payne (HAW)
Heat 3: John John Florence (HAW), Kai Otton (AUS), Patrick Gudauskas (USA)
Heat 4: Mick Fanning (AUS), Sebastian Zietz (HAW), Willian Cardoso (BRA)
Heat 5: Kelly Slater (USA), Kolohe Andino (USA), TBD
Heat 6: Joel Parkinson (AUS), Matt Wilkinson (AUS), TBD
Heat 7: Gabriel Medina (BRA), Kieren Perrow (AUS), Tiago Pires (PRT)
Heat 8: Josh Kerr (AUS), Alejo Muniz (BRA), Nat Young (USA)
Heat 9: Julian Wilson (AUS), Damien Hobgood (USA), Adam Melling (AUS)
Heat 10: Owen Wright (AUS), Michel Bourez (PYF), Filipe Toledo (BRA)
Heat 11: Jeremy Flores (FRA), Adrian Buchan (AUS), Brett Simpson (USA)
Heat 12: Jordy Smith (ZAF), C.J. Hobgood (USA), Glenn Hall (IRL)