I’m thousands of miles away from the Quiksilver Pro France right now watching the webcast at 3:30am and I haven’t wanted to be back on tour this bad in a long time. The surf for the final day was anywhere from 6-15 feet (depending where you live) and throwing out as wide as it was tall. It was the type of morning—contest or not—you wait for all year. It may have been difficult to make it out of two good tubes in your heat, but the possibility to score a 10 or catch the wave of your life could happen at any time.
During his early morning interview you could see the excitement in Kelly Slater's eyes and hear the anxiousness in his voice. The entire interview he jumped around taking mental notes of the line-up that would later provide him with the best barrels of the year. When Kelly is faced with these types of conditions he feels like he could stay on tour forever. The display of tuberiding he put on in his quarterfinal heat was very close to perfection. In the extremely shifty line-up Kelly found five tubes, the last one scoring a 9.33.
In the semi-finals Kelly faced Brett Simpson. Brett had been putting together solid performances all week and looked capable of an upset. But Kelly kept his momentum and rhythm with the main peak and easily comboed his opponent by dropping the events only perfect 10. Two things you should never do when Kelly catches a wave: One: Put a score in your head before he finishes the ride and, two: think that there’s no way he’s going to make it. I managed to do both on his 10. First I thought it wouldn't be a high scoring wave and actually looked away when he appeared to slide into the lip on take-off. I only looked back when I heard Peter Mel scream like a little girl in amazement on the webcast.
During Kelly and Mick’s heat in the semifinals at Lowers last week, Kelly didn’t give Mick an inch and played him and the heat perfectly for the win. Mick was visibly frazzled the entire heat. After the heat he was vocally upset, and much later, nearly physically upset. The final today in France began with Kelly surfing far off the main peak—giving Mick all the room in the world to find his waves without any competition or mind-games from Kelly. That was just the window Mick needed to stay in the groove he’d been in the entire comp. His early 7.17 proved vital in the rapidly increasing swell.
By the time Kelly made his way back to Mick at the main peak there was nothing but scraps or 10-foot wash-throughs. One bomb broke directly on Mick’s head sending him all the way to the beach. Still without a second score to put Kelly in a combo situation it looked as if Kelly was going to find the wave he needed to steal the win from Mick. The ocean was having none of it though. The wave Kelly needed came in with only a minute to go and Kelly holding priority. If Kelly had ridden that wave he would have won the event. But as the wave hit the tricky lineup it shifted to the south and inside—right to a waiting Mick Fanning. The result: Mick got rocketed through the tube for a 9.73 and into a familiar spot on top in France. Much like last year's late run, Mick has put himself in the hunt going into the final three events of the year.
The Quik Pro France wasn’t always easy but it always offered up a thrill. In the end the two best surfers of the event made the final and the one that works harder than anyone, took the victory. Going into Portugal (where Mick is also the defending champion) it will take an equally committed effort by him to keep Kelly from the win and a 10th title.
QUIKSILVER PRO FRANCE FINAL RESULTS:
1 – Mick Fanning (AUS)16.90
2 – Kelly Slater (USA) 6.74
QUIKSILVER PRO FRANCE SEMIFINAL RESULTS:
SF 1: Kelly Slater (USA) 15.13 def. Brett Simpson (USA) 3.00
SF 2: Mick Fanning (AUS) 17.67 def. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 11.40
QUIKSILVER PRO FRANCE QUARTERFINAL RESULTS:
QF 1:Brett Simpson (USA) 14.67 def. Daniel Ross (AUS) 10.77
QF 2:Kelly Slater (USA) 17.43 def. Michel Bourez (PYF) 9.33
QF 3:Adrian Buchan (AUS) 16.93 def. Kieren Perrow (AUS) 4.27
QF 4:Mick Fanning (AUS) 14.00 def. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 8.76
CURRENT ASP WORLD TITLE RACE TOP 5 (After Quiksilver Pro France):
1. Kelly Slater (USA) 48,000 pts
2.Jordy Smith (ZAF) 40,750 pts
3.Mick Fanning (AUS) 39,500 pts
4.Taj Burrow (AUS) 32,250 pts
5.Dane Reynolds (USA) 32,000 pt