Never underestimate a man who says he’s riding the best board of his life. As well, never underestimate an unknown Australian at Lowers. Looking at the ASP standings before the start of the Boost Mobile Pro you’d never have picked 23-year-old Bede Durbidge from Currumbin, Australia, as the winner. But then again, a few years ago who would have thought Richie Lovette would have won? You’d never have figured that this year Bede would mow down Andy Irons, Taj Burrow and Kelly Slater for the upset victory of the year. I mean really, what are the odds? In a contest with world title implications, all three were extremely in form, and from Round One it had appeared as if the surfing world was bound for a clash of the high-performance titans. But the ocean is a fickle mistress, and somehow the Blonde Fijian, as he’s known by his mates in Oz, was putting off the vibe.
With cars backed up down the freeway off ramp and onto Interstate 5, the morning of the Final came much anticipated. The south swell that had filled in the day before was now crossed of with northwest wind swell, and the waves were maybe a bit too peaky for their own good, but the wind was offshore, and the south winds that plagued the last two days were a thing of the past. And while the beach was crowded early, and conditions pristine, long lulls and a high tide slowed the first half of the day.
Coming out of the gates the boys from the Goldie seemed to be the ones making the most of what few waves were coming through. Mick Fanning, Dean Morrison and Joel Parkinson won the first three heats of the day, taking down Danny Wills, Damien Hobgood and Timmy Reyes, respectively. And then came Kelly, who subsequently rolled through the young Shaun Cansdell, leading to the Andy Irons/Bede Durbidge situation. At the start of the heat Andy was on it, catching various little peaks, but he fell a couple times which prevented him from racking up any significant scores. Bede on the other hand, appeared more controlled, fluidly connecting the dots from out the back to the cobblestones on the shore. Needing less than a six-point score, with under a minute left in the heat a set approached on the horizon. Andy held priority, and it seemed as if the Aussie sophomore was done for. Then, out of nowhere, like Rodney Dangerfield from Caddyshack, a 40-foot power fishing yacht bore down on the lineup. Stopping just short of the main take-off spot, the boat’s wake destroyed the waves, freaked Andy out, and like that Bede was into his the first quarterfinal of his ASP career. “That thing almost ran me over,” said Andy later, “I don’t even want to talk about it, I thought I was going to die.” Shortly after Taj Burrow took out fellow countryman Mark Occhilupoo, Chris Ward, the only Californian left in the event, knocked out Travis Logie, and in yet another upset, Victor Ribas beat last year’s runner up Phil MacDonald.
With disaster averted, going into the quarterfinals most of the big guns were still firing. The wind started to turn onshore, and by the time the final rolled around it would be down right blown-out, but for now things were manageable. In a clash of the Coolie kids, Mick faced Dean Morrison, but came up short, and while Dean would in the semis, he would still end up with the best result of his year thus far. In the much-anticipated next heat, Kelly squared off against Parko, and while it was Parko that beat Kelly in the final two years ago, history would not repeat itself. Kelly would move on to face Dean, and as I’ve already told you, and you probably guessed, he won. Next up was Wardo versus Bede, and one would think the hometown favorite would have the edge, well, obviously this was Bede’s contest, because he K.O.ed Wardo as well. Lest we say, Taj blew threw Victor Ribas, setting up the second semifinal, Bede vs. Taj.
Somehow, with all the rhythm, all the signature moves and crowd support Taj fell short when it counted most and Bede’s consistency got the best of him. Now, in the first final of his life, all Bede had to do was beat Kelly Slater. No problem, right? He’s only the seven-time, reigning world champion, and quite possibly the best surfer in the history of the support. Go get ‘em tiger. In actuality it was a lot easier than it sounds. From the start Kelly struggled to find the waves he needed. The ocean was a mess, and he continuously tallied low scores. While Bede, maybe taking a page out of Andy Irons’ book, patiently waited out the back for the waves with more substance. And as hard as Kelly tried, it was just not to be. This contest belonged to Bede. In typical Aussie fashion he was hoisted on his mates shoulders, and undoubtedly beer drinking and a ripe, old party raged long into the night.