By Jamie Tierney
"He's a 9-time world champion. He probably should get a tenth." Jordy Smith
"It's a start. I'm going to Portugal now and have a lot of fun." Mick Fanning
The difference between those two quotes is emblematic of what happened in France today. Mick Fanning started his campaign to defend his world title while Jordy Smith may have surrendered in his first shot at one. Sure Jordy might still be in 2nd in the ratings but this is the second contest in a row where he's watched a guy who's 38 rampage through the other side of the draw and found that his 22 year old legs couldn't keep pace. Had Kelly taken out the final today Smith would have needed to post at least a third at the Rip Curl contest next week in Portugal just to have kept the title race alive.
But that didn't happen and now a familiar and more seasoned foe is again nipping at the champ's heals, Mick Fanning. In epic but ultra tricky surf, the two-time world champ did enough to take out Slater in the final and post his 3rd Quiksilver Pro France win of his career. His year starts now. "I've still got a lot of work to do and the other guys have a couple of Finals on me," Mick said. "I need to sprint."
He can take heart knowing that the win made it impossible for Slater to clinch in Portugal and Kelly for his part was taking either Fanning or Smith's challenge lightly. "I think it will come down to Pipe," he said.
After scoring crazy barrels all day yesterday, Kelly seemed to peak in the semis against Brett Simpson. He scored only the second 10 of the year by side slipping into a dark and frothy one the color of a nice English Ale and somehow finding his way out.
Interestingly both Kelly and Mick seemed to fall apart a bit in the final. Crazy barrels chewed and spat all around them but neither could find one that held up. Near the end Mick found two scoring waves together and put Kelly away. "You were either in the spot or you weren't, and I was fortunate enough to be there for a couple," he said.
It's the afternoon now and the beers are flowing at the Café de Paris in Hossegor and the party will move from there to the Place du Landais at the beach and from there to who knows where. As the drinks go down warm and fuzzy memories of the best waves seen at this event in 5 years will bubble up within hearts of the ASP top 32 and all will be c'est bon.