MARGARET RIVER, Western Australia (Monday, April 4, 2011) - West Australia showed their appreciation and excitement about the return of Kelly Slater (USA), 39, to the Association of Surfing Professionals Prime Rated Telstra Drug Aware Pro with a huge media turn out to welcome back the 10-time ASP World Champion at today's official press launch.
The last time Slater competed at this event was way back in 1993 as a 21 year old one time ASP World Champion and the memories from that event were not so sweet.
"It was wonderful," joked Slater. "I lost my first heat, I got last place, ripped my wetsuit open, broke my board and got my leash stuck on the reef - then my rental car broke down, it was all bad for me at that event and I haven't been back to surf in it since."
Now the 10 time world champion who is widely regarded as one of the all time great sporting athletes is looking to enjoy the week ahead.
"It looks like the surf is going to be great for this event with Saturday being the best day," said Slater. "It should be a good finish. Each day I like to check the surf and go from there, if the surf's no good I'll play golf or go to a winery."
Slater was joined at today's press conference by Australia's most recent Men's world champion Mick Fanning along with defending Telstra Drug Aware Pro Champions Josh Kerr and Chelsea Hedges.
Surfers and organisers are excited about conditions ahead with a mixture of small, medium and very large waves forecast and becoming high quality as we head into the finals weekend.
While all the media attention focused on today's media conference, rounds one and two of the Telstra Drug Aware Pro Women's divisions were held in good clean 1m (3 feet) surf at Surfers Point Margaret River.
Local surfer Felicity Palmeteer was one of the most impressive round two heat winners defeating South Africa's Nikita Robb who also advanced through to round three in 2nd place.
"I was really nervous heading out for that heat," said Palmeteer.
"I had a bad result in my previous event at Newcastle and my goal is to qualify for the World Championship Tour next year so this is a really important event for me. It took me a while during that heat to actually get going and score some decent waves but it came in the end and I feel good - It's my familiar break here. I'll surf any conditions and enjoy it but really, I hope it gets bigger as I like it big out here."
Other girls to impress in the early rounds included Hawaiian Malia Manuel who top scored with 15.83 out of a possible 20 for her two top scoring rides along with Sunshine Coast's Dimity Stoyle, Newcastle's Philippa Anderson, Pauline Ado from France and Brazilian charger Silvana Lima.
Action will recommence first thing tomorrow morning with contest director Mike McAuliffe realistically confident that both Men's and Women's divisions might surf tomorrow.
Kelly Slater, as the events number 1 seed will surf in heat 12 of the first round in an international heat that will include Gony Zubizarreta (Spain), Billy Stairmand (NZ) and David do Carmo (Brazil).
Spectator entry to the Telstra Drug Aware Pro is free. For more information, visit www.telstradrugawarepro.com