After a 4 hour break that saw half the population of Australia enjoying oil glass sets peeling one after another in perfectly machined precision, Kelly Slater went into the first semi-final with the plan of wasting no time riding waves in the now deteriorating conditions - an increasing northeast wind combined with a super low-tide was making it difficult to find the clean, lined up waves that had been readily available earlier. So, just moments after the horn signaled the start, Kelly found (and ripped) an ideal Snapper wave, then immediately backed it up with another for an easy blow-out of Tiago, who waited in vain for a wave that would allow him to post substantial scores. Without expending much energy at all, Kelly, in what he has called his “Aloha Tour 2011,” was now casually awaiting the winner of the battle of the two superfreaks, Jordy and Taj.
Jordy’s Achilles Heel during the entire event was his inability to find waves even close to the quality of his opponent. Up against Taj that would be his undoing. With Jordy holding priority, Taj slid down the point to the same area Kelly found his second score under Tiago’s priority and threw everything he had at the only two quality waves that broke anywhere along the point during the 30 minute semifinal. With the second semi being a repeat of the first, ending in a landslide victory, the crowd hoped and prayed that the final would see the drama we had grown accustomed to in previous rounds of the Quiksilver Pro.
With Taj surfing so far above and beyond any of his previous years’ performances on the World Tour, one had to wonder if he could keep that pace up, or if he would crumble like countless others have against Kelly Slater - Taj himself has only 7 wins in their 23 match-ups.
The surf continued its rapid decline in quality as both surfers agreed to head directly back out for the final in hopes of finding the last few quality waves on offer. Neither surfer, however, was finding much. Kelly was sitting on a 5.27 and a 5 while Taj merely found numerous 1’s, 2’s, and a lone 3. Finally, with 4 minutes remaining, Taj located a clean wall to bust out his trademark fin-throw and numerous safety turns down the line to end up .1 shy of taking the lead. One more quality turn to show the judges a higher level of risk, and he would have taken the win that almost seemed like a preordained conclusion throughout the event.
As with so many times before, Kelly Slater proved he has an answer for any surfer in any type of conditions that may challenge him en route to another victory. Kelly has now won four of the last five events when the World Title race was still underway. If he shows up for the remainder of his “Aloha Tour” anywhere near as conditioned or focused as he was here, the 2011 World Title looks to be his once again. A good start and great form from both Taj and Jordy make them appear to be the only surfers capable of stopping him.