SLATER WINS AN UNPRECEDENTED SEVENTH FOSTER'S ASP MEN'S WORLD TOUR CROWN DURING NOVA SCHIN FESTIVAL, BRAZIL
Hobgood Claims Victory in the Nova Schin Festival Brazil
Spectators on the beach and those watching the live webcast from the Nova Schin Festival presented by Billabong witnessed one of the most phenomenal acts in surfing and sporting history today when Kelly Slater from Cocoa Beach, Florida, USA claimed an incredible seventh Foster's ASP Men's World Tour crown.
Despite being eliminated in round four of today's event, by stable-mate Travis Logie (ZAF), all things fell into place for Slater when his only rival for the title, Andy Irons (HAW) was eliminated by Nathan Hedge (AUS) in the quarter finals. In order to keep the title race alive going into Hawaii – with Slater's early elimination – Irons had to finish at least third in this event.
After a shaky start to the Nova Schin Festival, Slater looked to be back to his best in round three where he defeated wildcard Guilherme Ferriera (BRA) but in the heat against Logie he stalled, falling on a few occasions and perhaps making some wrong decisions regarding wave choice.
After the heat he admitted being an emotional ball of knots as he felt huge disappointment in himself plus an overwhelming anxiousness. He was about to jump into a car and leave the beach as he couldn't bear to watch how the Irons/Hedge affair would unfold.
Good friend CJ Hobgood (USA) then talked Slater into returning to watch and with all eyes upon the soon to be champion he joked and looked at ease for the masses of cameras focussed on him recording his reaction.
In the dying stages of the Irons/Hedge encounter he zipped his jacket over his head as the anticipation became unbearable. But as soon as it was confirmed that Irons was eliminated Slater threw his arms in the air and cheered long and hard in tune with the massive crowd who were present to support him.
It was a fantastic year for the 33-year-old as after getting off to a slow start on the first two events on this year's calendar, he came back with a victory in Tahiti scoring the first perfect 20 out of 20 total in the final.
He claimed that it took him until that victory to revamp his title ambition after narrowly losing his crown in 2003 when Irons came from behind in the last event of the tour at Pipeline.
In 2005 he has claimed four event victories in Tahiti, Fiji, California and South Africa. His battles with Irons in two finals – in Jeffreys Bay where Slater was victor and in Japan where Irons won the silverware – have been noted as being some of the best surfing finals of all time.
Slater was in the box seat in the last event in France and could have potentially wrapped up the title there. But Irons win in that event held off Slater's celebrations until today here in Brazil.
In winning his seventh Foster's ASP Men's World Tour crown Slater has broken his own record of six titles.
He won his first title here in Brazil at Rio de Janeiro in 1992. He then lost the following year to Derek Ho (HAW) but reclaimed his crown in 1994 and held onto it with a firm grip until 1998 – seven years ago.
Slater left the tour before the start of the 1999 season to go into semi-retirement until 2001. He is the only surfer in the history of the sport who did not have to return to the World Championship Tour through qualification on the second tier World Qualifying Series. Each tour event granted him a wildcard so he could return in 2001.
Slater was the youngest to claim the title at 20 years of age and is now the oldest champion at 33 years of age. He takes the oldest record from Mark Occhilupo (AUS) who also claimed a title in 1999 when he was also 33. He beats Occhilupo because he was born in the month of February. Occhilupo was born in June.
Kelly Slater is the highest prizemoney winner in the history of the sport now having amassed an amazing $US1,303,105.
The only record Slater is yet to smash is the most number of competition victories held by Tom Curren (USA). Curren has 33 event victories while Slater has 31.
The following quotes were recorded directly after he claimed his crown.
His immediate reaction:
"I'm feeling pretty good. I've just been through a complete emotional roller coaster from being really sad thinking of my dad [who passed away in 2002] to being really happy after talking to my family and just thinking about the whole big thing. I really need a little time alone just to sit and dwell on everything I think. I'm just super relieved it's over. It was an amazing year. Andy didn't really get in gear until the end of the year and I knew at some point he was going to make a rush and really didn't expect him to go out early here. I thought he was going to win. I'm feeling for Andy at the moment."
On returning to compete on the Foster's ASP Men's World Tour in 2006:
"I probably won't make that decision until Bells in April next year. I will definitely surf the first event of the year on the Gold Coast no matter what. As to whether I continue and surf all the events… If I surf Bells, if I go to Tahiti and Fiji it is very likely that I will continue as I love those events and won last year. I just don't know at this point. I will see when I get there. I'm not too worried about that now."
On his feelings after his defeat to Travis Logie in the Nova Schin Festival Brazil:
"I was going to leave the beach. We were packing the car and my friends were putting the boards on the roof. Then CJ Hobgood looked at me and said, 'You know what? It is better that this is happening, this should go to Hawaii. It is better for surfing. It's better for everyone to see it come down to the last event – it just makes sense.' I instantly relaxed about it. I thought to myself that I should stick around to watch Nathan and Andy's heat and if I win today I should be at the beach. It was the right thing. I had a really good feeling. Then Nathan Hedge looked at me and said, 'I am going to win this heat, it's going to end today.' I thought to myself, there's a man with confidence, and I was pumped up and totally relaxed at the same time. Then he went out and did his thing and beat Andy. Hedgey and I need to sit down and have a talk. [laughs] He thought I was hating him these past four months and he goes to me, 'We're friends again now aren't we?'"
On his head space:
"I have to sit back and dwell on it all for a while. It's all hit me right now. I need to assess how I feel as a person as opposed to just winning. Prior to today I wasn't just thinking about the next contest, I was thinking about the rest of my life and where I can improve in other parts of it. It all has me pumped up and humbled all at the same time. In some ways I just want to build a house, surf a lot, play golf, travel, play music and have more time for my personal life. That may happen, that might be my next year."
On him smashing records:
"I don't know about the records just yet. Again I need time to sit back and think about things. I would love to win Pipe and finish off on a win after having such a great year. Potentially I can still catch Tom Curren's record for event victories next year if that is the case. I didn't win a whole event during last year and this year I came up and won four. I could easily go next year and not win one again or I could win a few so we will see how my mind is and how determined I am on tour next year."
On the anxiety he felt at the end of the Irons/Hedge heat that resulted in his zipping up his jacket and hiding:
"I was pretending I was playing poker and I didn't want anyone to see my poker face. I was hiding! Trying to contain the excitement, the nervousness… the anxiety!"
On 2005 being the best year of his life:
"In a lot of ways I feel like my life is getting better and this just really capped off the back half of my career in a great way."
For futher information on Slater's Foster's ASP Men's World Tour crown head to www.quiksilver.com/ks7
Hobgood Claims Victory in the Nova Schin Festival Brazil
It was a memorable day in surfing history today as Damien Hobgood (USA) defeated Victor Ribas (BRA) in front of an extremely vocal crowd at the Nova Schin Festival presented by Billabong in Brazil.
Surfing in one metre (three foot) waves at Imbituba, Santa Catarina, Brazil, Hobgood stole a wave in the dying seconds of the final to claim the victory in the event, the 10th on the Foster's ASP Men's World Tour career.
Coming from behind and knowing he only needed a small score – a 3.3 out of 10 – Hobgood grabbed a smaller inside wave in the dying stages of the final and punched out two quick turns to score a 4.13 in what was a nail biting finish for both competitors and spectators alike.
It was a slow start in the 35 minute encounter with neither surfer really able to catch any quality waves until Hobgood scored an 8.17 with seven minutes to go. He then had to wait patiently until those dying seconds for his last score as the ocean went flat.
Ribas meanwhile had locked away some average scores of 5.17 and 5.33 and had the full backing of the incredibly passionate crowd. Each time Ribas stroked into waves they roared loudly, jumped up and down and hooted.
It was Hobgood's second final appearance in a row – he finished second behind Andy Irons (HAW) in France – and he knew he had an inside running here today due to what he claimed was divine intervention.
“It was one of those contests where I wasn't really surfing that well but the Lord was telling me that this was my contest,” said Hobgood. “I'd be in a heat and the waves would be bad and then a bomb would just come to me! I started off slow and gained momentum throughout the event. I'm super stoked with the win.”
Hobgood acknowledged that it was a slow final and that he didn't really dominate as he would have liked but in scratching into his final wave of the event he knew he had played the right hand, but given the vocal nature of the crowd he didn't want to go overboard in showing his excitement as he didn't want the crowd to get out of control.
“I certainly didn't command the heat,” said Hobgood. “I couldn't hear clearly but I thought they said I needed a 3.0 or something [which was correct] and I paddled for that last wave. I thought it wasn't that good but I went for it because I thought it would be my last hurrah. I took off late but managed to get in front of the section and I knew if I could do two good turns I'd get the score. As soon as I finished I knew I'd got the score and if I was anywhere else in the world I would have claimed it but I didn't want get the crowd going too crazy so I just cut out.”
Hobgood went on to site that he was trying emulate Joel Parkinson's (AUS) new found drive. After taking time off since the event in Japan back in September, Parkinson was “frothing like a grommet” being incredibly excited every time he hit the water for a heat.
“I was trying to draw energy from Joel Parkinson,” said Hobgood. “He was so amped to be back in the water after his injury I was trying to be like him and charge out there and just really enjoy competing.”
Ribas, in having the backing of the locals was in excellent form in the lead up to the final. He was unfortunate in that the set waves were few and far between. His two average scoring rides were just below par of Hobgood's excellent wave and a smaller one.
“I couldn't hear very well out there and I didn't know he needed only a 3.3,” said Ribas. “I did my best and I tried to make all the manoeuvres on the waves but unfortunately he only needed that small score and he did make it. But I'm so proud that I have represented my country well. I always hope to do well for them.”
Through this second place today and his third placing in France, Ribas is now in a solid position on the ratings after looking very shaky all year previously. Originally he hadn't qualified for the 2005 Foster's ASP Men's World Tour but due to the retirment of Pat O'Connell (USA) at the start of this year Ribas scored a start and is now cemented for a return in 2006.
“I have to thank Pat O'Connell for retiring as that was how I made it into the top 45 this year,” said Ribas. “I was so stoked to be back this year and to have some big results. At Trestles this year Pat was driving the jetski in the surf and I thanked him for everything, for helping me get here on the WCT. I am very stoked to be here and have the crowd behind me. I didn't win but for me it was like a win in front of this crowd.”
Finishing in equal third place was Nathan Hedge (AUS) who had an interesting day in that he contributed to the world title race by defeating Andy Irons in the quarter-finals. Irons needed to finish at least third here to keep the title race alive going into the next event at Pipeline Hawaii and Hedge blasted to victory scoring the highest heat score of the event.
His dream run came to an end in the semi-finals, however, as he went down fighting to Ribas. He was held back by some long lulls and couldn't find the big scores.
“I felt as though I hadn't even really hit my straps yet in the event so I was a bit disappointed that the waves didn't come in that heat, said Hedge. “But that's surfing you know. You just have to take the good with the bad. Victor is really hard to beat in these conditions as he only needs half a wave and he'll catch it. That was my second best result of the year and it came at a good time of the year. It'll keep me in the top 10 so now just bring on Pipe!”
Equalling Hedge was another Brazilian hot shot in Raoni Monteiro. Up until this event and the World Qualifying Series event held last week, he was looking like bowing out of the elite tour for lack of quality results.
Monteiro is a promising youngster and will certainly be a serious challenger in future as in an earlier round he landed one of the biggest aerial reverse manoeuvres of the event. In his semifinal against Hobgood, Monteiro, like Hedge was hampered by the long breaks between set waves. He was however pleased with his performance.
“It was hard out there. He got a good one to start and I think that was the best wave of the heat,” said Monteiro. “I had a small wave then I couldn't really come back. This is the first podium I've made so far so I'm really happy to get this far. It was an important event for me because I needed a good result and I think now I'm in 30th on the WCT and now in 18th on the WQS. If I do well when I get to Hawaii then I'm back in.”
Heat 11: Nathan Hedge (AUS) 14.67 def Pedro Henrique (BRA) 12.63
Heat 12: Jake Paterson (AUS) 11.50 def Guilherme Herdy (BRA) 7.03
Heat 13: Phil MacDonald (AUS) 11.50 def Flavio Costa (BRA) 8.93
Heat 14: Victor Ribas (BRA) 15.00 def Tim Reyes (USA) 9.00
Heat 15: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 13.50 def Yuri Sodre (BRA) 6.83
Heat 16: Fred Patacchia (HAW) 14.67 def Renan Rocha (BRA) 12.93
Heat 1: Kirk Flintoff (AUS) 17.55 def C.J. Hobgood (USA) 13.77
Heat 2: Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 16.33 def Mick Fanning (AUS) 13.70
Heat 3: Damien Hobgood (USA) 14.53 def Cory Lopez (USA) 12.07
Heat 4: Travis Logie (ZAF) 14.07 def Kelly Slater (USA) 13.66
Heat 5: Andy Irons (HAW) 17.10 def Bede Durbridge (AUS) 11.67
Heat 6: Nathan Hedge (AUS) 15.27 def Jake Paterson (AUS) 13.43
Heat 7: Victor Ribas (BRA) 14.26 def Phillip MacDonald (AUS) 13.50
Heat 8: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 12.50 def Frederick Patacchia Jr (HAW) 11.64
Heat 1: Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 12.00 def Kirk Flintoff (AUS) 7.46
Heat 2: Damian Hobgood (USA) 13.27 def Travis Logie (ZAF) 10.83
Heat 3: Nathan Hedge (AUS) 17.70 def Andy Irons (USA) 16.80
Heat 4: Victor Ribas (BRA) 14.33 def Joel Parkinson (AUS) 13.70
Heat 1: Damian Hobgood (USA) 14.23 def Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 8.70
Heat 2: Victor Ribas (BRA) 12.63 def Nathan Hedge (AUS) 10.67
Heat 1: Damian Hobgood (USA) 12.30 def Victor Ribas (BRA) 11.50
Ratings post Brazil
1. Kelly Slater (USA) 7896
2. Andy Irons (HAW) 7260
3. Phil MacDonald (AUS) 6060
4. Mick Fanning (AUS) 6028
5. Damien Hobgood (USA) 5826
6. Trent Munro (AUS) 5618
7. Taj Burrow (AUS) 5512
8. CJ Hobgood (USA) 5248
9. Nathan Hedge (AUS) 5236
10. Cory Lopez (USA) 4960
For the full results and ratings go to www.aspworldtour.com