It may be considered somewhat of an anti-climax after such a scintillating day of surfing, but Taj Burrow utterly dominated the final of the 2007 Billabong Pro, J-Bay today. Like last year, Burrow survived the tougher side of the heat draw, but this year had enough juice left in him to complete a win that has been eluding him for many years now. Posting two rides in excess of 8 points, Burrow looked like the man to beat from the outset, and an out-of-sorts Kelly Slater was left needing a combination of scores to even threaten Taj’s lead.
Slater, who fell on every wave he rode during the 40 minute final, looked tired and looked like he had accepted defeat well before the siren even sounded. Slater might have felt a little rattled after only narrowly emerging from his semi-final heat with Dean “Dingo” Morrison. Although Slater looked to be in devastating form earlier in the day when he disposed of Adriano de Souza by posting the highest heat score of the event, a 19.23, a change of board going into the semi final, saw Slater’s unbelievable momentum turn into somewhat of a speed-wobble. An ordinary heat saw Kelly squeak into the final in a low scoring match-up.
Afterwards, the water temperature went up a couple degrees when Dean Morrison jumped into the hot tub in the competitors area after the semi final heat. There were a few choice words directed at the judges tower and few dings added to his board, but “Dingo” Morrison had every right to feel a little aggrieved that he didn’t find himself facing up to Burrow in the final. It wasn’t so much that Morrison’s last wave was underscored, but rather that the highest score of the heat, Slater’s colossal 8.0, was flimsily held aloft by only three critical turns. Regardless, needing a 7.01 in the dying seconds, Morrison rode a wave and gave a confident fist pump, thinking that he had done enough to secure him a finals berth. He was rewarded with a 6.93, a few fractions short of a monumental result, but despite his anger immediately after the heat, Dingo will surely be happy with his overall result.
Finishing in equal third was current ratings leader, Mick Fanning. All indications pointed toward it being Fanning’s event, but when he reached Burrow in the semis, creating a carbon copy of last year’s final, it all seemed to fall apart. It was a thoroughly dejected Fanning who ran into the competitors area after the first semi final, and, without saying a word to anyone, quickly exited again after hastily grabbing his back-up board. While he has certainly bolstered his position at the top of the ASP rankings, his equal third place does hand the initiative over to Burrow and Slater, who have climbed up the rankings following this result.
It took eleven and a half days for the Billabong Pro, J-Bay to finally produce a heat of some substance, and when it did it never really looked back. One heat shy of four full rounds of bland, one-sided match ups, Brazilian Adriano de Souza met Australia’s Bede Durbidge and the two set the contest alight. It was de Souza who set the pace with and 8 and a 7, milking the small waves from Boneyards to the rocks at Impossibles. It was up to Durbidge to play catch-up in conditions that seemed taylor-made for the diminutive Brazilian. But Durbidge matched de Souza’s 7.0 without breaking a sweat, but was still looking for a excellent ride towards the tail end of the heat. Needing an 8.01 with only seconds left on the clock, the lanky Aussie took off on an insider and somehow squeezed some power from a wall that was literally breaking on the rocks. Durbidge, who is relying solely on prize money to fund his 2007 WCT campaign, ended up on the rocks with a nasty gash on his ass for his efforts. The score came through at a 7.5 which effectively means that Bede will probably be eating Ramen tonight rather than the restaurant meal he had hoped for. His equal 9th, however, means that he solidifies his place comfortably within the top ten on the ASP rankings.