"That was not a 10!" Yells the 9-year-old kid in the bleachers. His face is red and he's leaning over the railing. "What are you looking at, judges!?!"
The child repeats that phrase, or something to that effect, several times in response to Kelly Slater's perfect 10. We are now midway through the final and Kelly just spun a full-rotation frontside-360 air, a score that lifts him out of being combinationed by a swooping and powerful Mick Fanning. Kelly's 10 vacuums the energy out of the Mick-happy crowd. Surely this is the start of another Kelly comeback. Oh, the drama.
Kelly backs up his 10 with an 8.07, taking the lead. Mick needs a 9. The kid in the bleachers is still yelling at the judges. "How are you going to give a 10 for one maneuver!?!" Suddenly the crowd is cheering. A set is stacking and Mick is alone in its path. The feathering lip runs down from Rincon toward the Bowl where Mick strokes into the overhead wall. Kelly is on the inside and has a better view than any of the thousands of spectators witnessing the historic final. Mick drives hard off the bottom and arcs perfectly off the top, then hits repeat, surfing Bells as any red-blooded, Rip-Curled Australian should. He earns a 9.7. Slater is now in an 8.8-needing situation.
Try as he might, Kelly can only summon a pair of 8.07s to back up his 10. Mick has won and the crowd roars again. It is reenergized. They hoot, applaud and whistle as Mick ascends the stairs wearing a winner's grin. He eventually makes it to the stage to ring the Bell for the first time in over a decade. Kelly sprays him with a thick stream of Champagne. Mick smiles. Mick laughs. Mick rings the Bell once more. The yelling child is still yelling, but now he's yelling, "We love you Mick!" —Taylor Paul
Author's Note: The 10 in question: The crowd was probably split as to whether or not Kelly deserved the score. The situation reminded me of the interview we did with ASP head judge Richie Porta. In it he explained how the judges determine the few10s they give: "You feel them, mainly," said Richie. "They don't come very often. But you know it when you see something that can't be anything other than a 10." And when Kelly punted and stomped that air, I'll admit (I was rooting for Mick), this one felt like a 10. Does it really matter that it was just one maneuver? Yes, it does. Because if judges weren't able to drop 10s for one maneuver, contest surfing would suffer. We'd regress toward three-to-the-beach and would rarely see moves like the Hail Mary that Kelly through today. Good job Kelly. Good job judges. And sorry yelling child, you were wrong.
[In the next couple of weeks we will release a Flipbook on the Rip Curl Pro. It will be a relatively comprehensive look at the event and well worth returning for, even though you already know the ending.]
See the Rip Curl Pro 2011 Flipbook while you patiently wait