Kelly Slater takes Billabong Pro in epic finish at Jeffreys Bay today
Career best semi-final finish for SA's Greg Emslie
Top seed and current world #1 Kelly Slater (USA) won the R1.8 million Billabong Pro in a epic conditions at Supertubes in Jeffreys Bay today, beating second seed and defending event champ Andy Irons (Haw) in the most dramatic finish yet seen in a Foster's ASP Men's World Championship Tour (WCT) event.
The first man-on-man final between the two surfers who have dominated world surfing over the past decade produced high drama when Slater, needing a near perfect 9.33 point ride after trailing throughout the 35 minute finale, caught his last wave with 15 seconds to go.
Applying every ounce of his considerable skill the former six-time world champion executed three sensational, gravity defying manoeuvres on the double overhead wall of water, but fell while completing the third, only for the judges to award him with 9.5 points and his third J-Bay title.
Earlier South Africa's Greg Emslie (East London) secured his career best WCT result when he placed equal third after narrowly losing to Irons in their semi-final encounter. Emslie was totally in tune with conditions throughout the event, securing victories over third seed Joel Parkinson (Aus) in the quarters, Taylor Knox (USA) in the last 16 and Taj Burrow (Aus) in round three.
Emslie started well against Irons but fell behind at the halfway point and the Hawaiian then slammed the door shut on the East Londoner's aspirations of reaching his first final with a last minute 7.10 point ride that left Emslie needing a substantial 8.26 points to advance.
Slater, who recorded three of the top four wave scores and the same ratio of top heat tallies during the event, earned US $30 000 (approx R200 000) for his victory along with 1 200 vital WCT ratings points that extended his lead in the title race with six of the 11 events now completed.
Irons earned $16 000 (approx R110 000) for his runner-up finish, which snapped a run of three consecutive ninth places, and moved above Australian's Trent Munro and Mick Fanning in second place on the ratings, 206 points behind Slater.
Contest director Mike Parsons sent the first heat of round four in the surf at 7.30 am as perfect one to 1.3 metre (3-4 foot) waves peeling down the world renowned Supertubes point in a gentle offshore breeze and cloudless skies.
By 10 am there was flawless two metre waves rolling through the line-up and the quarter-finalist were going to work with phenomenal displays of cutting edge surfing. The swell continued to build and despite a switch of wind direction to fresh crosswind, the awesome performances continued right up to the final itself.
The Billabong Pro was the sixth of 12 events on the 2005 Foster's Men's ASP World Championship Tour (WCT), the global circuit of events that determines the annual world surfing champion. The event offered US $270 000 (approximately R1.8 million) in total prize-money, of which $30 000 (R200 000) goes to the winner, making it the most prestigious and certainly the most lucrative surfing tournament to be staged on the African continent annually.
The Billabong Pro was proudly supported by South African Airways; Von Zipper; Kustom; Kouga Municipality; Vodacom, True Technologies; Blackfoot Productions; Dirk Ellis Motors; Canon; Telkom SA; Avis and Bonaqua.
Jeffreys Bay, South Africa
Kelly Slater (USA) 16.83 def. Andy Irons (HAW) 16.56
Foster's ASP Men's World Championship Tour
Ratings after Event # 6 – Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay
1 Kelly Slater USA 5342
2 Andy Irons HAW 4596
3 Trent Munro AUS 4286
4 Mick Fanning AUS 4230
5 Joel Parkinson AUS 3732
6 Fredrick Patacchia Jr HAW 3628
7 Phillip MacDonald AUS 3599
8 Cory Lopez USA 3575
9 C.J. Hobgood USA 3546
10 Nathan Hedge AUS 3443