Really, we’re not making this up. This is not a joke on the millions of you loyal viewers in webland — either shaking your heads or cheersing beers, depending on your affinity for today’s champion. Honestly, the 2008 Boost Mobile Pro presented by Hurley really did end this way. I swear, it wasn’t some scripted webisode. Kelly Slater did win again. Repeat. Kelly Slater did win again.
Decisively? Hardly. Controversially? To many. But at the end of the day, Kelly will still have 39 career victories and a virtually unbeatable 1,418 points lead on World #2 and today’s runner-up, Taj Burrow. Because today’s outcome is a harsh reality for the rest of the Top 45. Because today, it is without question that your 2008 ASP World Champion has a face, a familiar face. A Kelly Slater face. It’s just a matter of when now.
But it was controversial, no? Like I said, that depends on whom you talk to. But let’s not get too worked up yet. Let’s look at how it happened.
Many claimed that today was going to be the Kelly/Dane/Jordy show. And with good reason, as the two Tour rooks finally showed signs that they do possess that top-secret formula of Slater-beatability. Problem is they are young and in many ways shackled by their own talent. So we won’t see a changing of the guard just yet. But Kelly, well, his dominance is undeniably consistent, nearly as radical and technically flawless. Always. Every heat. Every turn. And that’s why he won’t stop winning.
When Jordy fell to a flaring Taj and Dane couldn’t hold up to Durbo’s conveyor-belt attack; when Mick fell to 2007 ASP Rookie of the Year Jeremy Flores; when Kelly took out Bobby after a rare exchange of early morning barrels — there were no longer any wonder kids standing in his way. No, it was a familiar crew staring each other down in the final rounds. (Aside from Brazilian Heitor Alves, who after settling for 33rds and 17ths all year, blew into the Quarters to the screams of his beachside Brazilian fan club. And, you know, many came thong heavy, which was nice of them.)
And this was precisely when we started to notice Taj. All week he had been on fire, but today he was something else. Kelly has always been known to tweak his arcs a little further, float sections a bit longer and finish waves stronger, but today, that honor arguably went to Taj. He disposed of Flores for just those reasons and Slater squeaked past Bede in the final minutes of their Semi.
So it was happening. It was really happening. Kelly was looking at another victory. It was up to Taj to at least soak up the blood hemorrhaging from the rest of the Top 45 on the beach. And for the first 20 minutes of their 40-minute heat, it looked like Taj was cleaning things up nicely. (Kelly convinced contest director Mike Parsons and Taj to add 5 minutes to the normal 35 minute final due to inconsistency…hmmm).
With a 9.0 and a 9.63, Taj had Kelly in combo-land and it looked like even The Magician wasn’t gonna get out of this one. But, uh-oh, what’s this? At 10 minutes remaining, a proper south line swings towards Kelly. Figures. He unleashes and betters his high of 8.17 with a 9.7. Figures. And the talking starts in the peanut galleries of the contest’s various VIP sections. Figures. “There’s no way that was a 9.7,” a certain well-known industry honcho confessed. In the water, Taj raises his hands in agreement. And you could just hear the boys in the next swanky super-VIP room over. That’s bullshit, mate.
What conspired in the final minutes was even more disastrous for Taj — especially considering that if he hadn’t agreed to extend the heat by 5 minutes, the contest would be over and he would be champ. With under 2 minutes left and needing an 8.93, Kelly psyches Taj out for the best wave of the final set, sweeps into a hearty blow-tail, then a reverse, then a 360, then gets all “Somewhere in Bali” on us and hops switch to ride it out. Meanwhile out the back, the last of the set burgers out under Taj. He should have known. NEVER give Kelly an inch. Before the cheers even fade, the judges have made their call: 9.27. Ladies and gentleman, we wouldn’t lie to you. Taj’s 18.63 pales to Kelly’s 18.97. Unbelievable.
“Can you believe that?” A particular amateur superstar says, after the champagne is popped and Kelly is crowned. “There’s no way that was a 9.27 — Taj won for sure.” And it didn’t take too far of a stroll through the back alleys of the contest arena to hear more big names voice the same opinion. Taj won, damn it. Taj WON!
No. Kelly did. Why? Because like only Kelly can do, he got into Taj’s head. He pounced on Taj’s one and only mistake and punished him for it. Even Taj admitted it. “It’s what he’s famous for,” Taj muttered. “I don’t even want to talk about it.”
So exactly how close is Kelly? If he wins in France, Taj has to get no better than a 3rd and Bede or Mick a 2nd. Which isn’t impossible, considering Kelly couldn’t script this year any better for himself.
COMPLETE QUARTERFINAL RESULTS:
(1st advances to Semifinals; 2nd finishes =5th)
Heat 1: Bede Durbidge def. Dane Reynolds
Heat 2: Kelly Slater def. Bobby Martinez
Heat 3: Jeremy Flores def. Mick Fanning
Heat 4: Taj Burrow def. Heitor Alves
COMPLETE SEMIFINAL RESULTS:
(1st advances to Final; 2nd finishes =3rd)
Heat 1: Kelly Slater def. Bede Durbidge
Heat 2: Taj Burrow def. Jeremy Flores
BOOST MOBILE PRO FINAL:
(1st wins $US 30,000; 2nd wins $US 16,000)
Kelly Slater v. Taj Burrow