When I saw that the final day of the Billabong Pro had dropped into that tricky 4- to 6-foot range, I knew Kelly’s experience and perfect technique was going to prove too much for the rest of the World Tour. The only real chance of defeating him came in the opening heat of the day when he broke his board on a crap wave. Switching to a brand new board, he figured it out quickly, smashing Wilko in the process. That tweaked-out little four-fin of Slater’s turned into his magic carpet for the remainder of the day, generating tremendous speed as he pumped through section after section. While Kelly waited for a potential final against Owen (truth be told, it was always going to be an Owen vs. Kelly final) the other side of the draw bore witness to the best heats of the day.
Travis Logie has been around the World Tour for quite some time now, long enough to be considered a veteran. All the mayhem involved in him getting to Tahiti coupled with the resulting massive swell proved to be a great catalyst for Travis to launch himself over the falls on anything that moves. That action saw him tally some amazing scores, including the highest of the quarterfinals, at a blistering 18.07 out of 20 against a shockingly quick learner in the form of Brett Simpson. If Brett had dragged his ass more instead of letting go on one bomb, we may have seen a different result.
In the semifinal that saw Logie matchup against Owen Wright, the brute strength displayed by Owen was just too much for Travis to overcome. To the 6’3″ paddling machine, Teahupoo at this size was almost playful. Leaving his drops to the last second, extending his lanky frame down the line in a flash of big pumps, Owen was a man on a mission. For Travis, it was nevertheless a great showing that saw him come from way back to now possibly getting back on the WT after New York. After such a gutsy performance, I’m positive that hordes of new fans will be hoping he qualifies.
Kelly’s semifinal heat against Kerr was one of the slowest of the entire event. During Bruce’s session before the final, not one proper set broke. The dying swell held out a couple gems for the final, though. And in the end, the win would go to Kelly and his uncanny ability to sniff out excellent rides all over the reef at Teahupoo. While many surfers may have a spot—a certain wave they wait on that speaks to them—that’s not the case for Kelly. He adapts to what his brain tells him the ocean is going to do. Had there been anyone else in that heat and Owen would have been your Billabong Pro champion. But the combination of Kelly’s innate skills and high scores saw Owen falter. The most talented goofyfoot tube-rider since the Hobgoods, Owen pushed Kelly to the limit in his very first experience with real Teahupoo. It’s scary to think of him getting better every year out there, much in the same fashion as Kelly.
With this win, Kelly sits deceivingly back at sixth place on the WT rankings, but if you take out everyone’s two throwaways, you’ll see him jump to first. Owen also now finds himself in a position to strike from ninth, with two low throwaways of his own. Looking into the future I see a possible epic Hurricane Katia swell for New York, then the always high-performance event at Lowers just right around the corner. Expect to see both Owen and Kelly battling it out with the rest of the Top 10 in the hunt for the 2011 World Title.