The King is Still King
Kelly Slater Rolls to Victory at Day 6 of the Quiksilver Pro
Reporter: When will we see you next, Kelly?
Kelly: You'll see me in my next heat.
At Bells? That's what it's looking like. No retirement announcement today, folks. Kelly won over Taj Burrow in convincing fashion and is looking relaxed and hungry for more. The waves were tiny and gutless and you have to go all the way back to the mid 90's pre-dream tour days to remember a day when he won in similar conditions. Interestingly, until today, his victory in mirco surf at Grand Plage in the Biarritz Surf Masters in 1996 was his last in a Quiksilver sponsored event.
It didn't come easy. No non-Aussie has ever won this event and the final went down the wire. Taj Burrow, with a crew of Ocker mates on the beach screaming "TB, Smash Jimmy Slade!" and singing, "Don't Want to be an American Idiot!" was frothing.
So was Kelly. He smashed Bobby Martinez in Semi 1 and then jumped out to an early lead against Taj in the final. But a fit and renewed TB clawed his way back. With 35 seconds left and needing an 8.45, he saw a lovely little lump jump up in front of him. He skated and slashed across the face and even claimed his final blast off the crumble. But the wave never offered him a steep enough section to really tear apart and the judges only gave him a 6.87 for the effort. Kelly began the celebration by riding in on a jet ski and then found himself atop the strong shoulders of Bobby and CJ Hobgood.
It all just seemed like it was meant to be. Kelly woke up feeling so confident and clairvoyant that he sent a text message to Taj (one of his few bros on tour) before the comp began saying, "You ready? Let's do this thing." Any questions that he had peaked yesterday, when he was the highest scorer of the Quarterfinals, were answered when he scored a massive 17.84 points in Semi 1 and continued his roll in the final. Channeling his Florida roots all day, Kelly put on a devastating display of on-edge, high performance small-wave ripping. Even on his non-scoring waves there were no glitches, hitches or wobbles to be seen.
So what's next? He's on his way to New York (hmm…wonder why he's going there) before taking a vacation with his daughter in the Bahamas. And then? Nobody (maybe even he) knows if he's going to go full bore all year or not, but next month get ready see him donning a full suit and plotting his strategy to ring the Bell. It's been 12 years since he's done that, but you can bet the memory of the sound is ringing in his ear.
KELLY SLATER WINS QUIKSILVER PRO PRESENTED BY SAMSUNG
TAKES TOP SPOT ON TOUR RATINGS
Kelly Slater (USA), the man considered the greatest surfer of all time, has lived up to expectation once again by winning the first event of the 2006 Foster’s ASP Men’s World Tour, the Quiksilver Pro presented by Samsung, which climaxed in ultra clean one metre (three foot) waves at Duranbah beach on the southern end of Queensland’s Gold Coast today.
Against Australian surfing icon Taj Burrow (AUS), Slater, the seven-time world champion was back to his absolute best, and the 34-year-old wasted no time in securing a lead in the 30 minute final.
Thousands of fans cheered on as their surfing heroes went wave for wave, with both Burrow and Slater pulling out all the stops as they vied for the US$30,000 first place winners’ cheque and the all important ratings lead in the chase for the 2006 world surfing title.
While Burrow waited patiently for the best waves, Slater racked up continuous scores, each wave slightly better than his last. The clincher came in the latter stages, with judges awarding Slater an excellent 9.0 ride, which forced Burrow onto the ropes.
Despite his reputation as one of the most electric small-wave surfers in the world, 27-year-old Burrow was no match today for the ‘King’, who for the first time since 1998 took top honours in the season’s opening event.
The final tally – Slater leaving the water on 16.17 points to Burrow’s 14.60.
"It's been eight years since I won the first event of the year, it feels awesome, it's great to get a start like that. I didn't finish out the year super strong last year, so to start this year in the number one spot feels really good," said Slater.
The win brings Slater one step closer to another record, he is now just one WCT career victory shy of American legend Tom Curren’s total of 33, and it is the first time Slater has won one of his sponsor’s events since claiming the Quiksilver Pro in Biarritz, France in 1996.
The question also begs, will Slater chase his own record, and go for world title number eight? But at this stage, the champ is still undecided.
"It's a real thing on everyone's minds but it really isn't in my focus right now. I do think about it, I'd be lying if I said I didn't… but it's not keeping me up at night and it's not waking me up in the morning, it's just something that could happen," said Slater.
Burrow was diplomatic in defeat, despite stating his clear intention to win the event after finding renewed hunger following a broken foot that hampered the back end of his 2005 campaign. For his runner-up placing today, Burrow pocketed US$16,000 and slips into second on the world ratings with 1032 points behind Slater’s 1,200.
"Kelly did well, I didn't get the wave I needed, but I'm really stoked with the result and to be out in the water competing again," said Burrow.
"It was always going to be a tough challenge for me. I really wanted to pull a 'Mick Fanning' [who returned from injury to win last year's Quiksilver Pro] and come from an injury lay off and win the event. I've had a lot of time to think about it and I now have a different perspective and realise the things I have to do to get the results. I feel really focused now."
In this morning’s semi-finals, Slater ended tour rookie Bobby Martinez's (USA) dream run in the Quiksilver Pro. The 23-year-old Santa Barbara surfer failed to find a second scoring ride in the fickle conditions of Duranbah Beach to finish equal third overall in his first top tour event as a touring championship surfer.
Martinez accounted for some of the sport’s biggest names on his way through to the semi-final eliminating 2000 world champion Mark Occhilupo (AUS) in round two, world-rated number five Phil MacDonald (AUS) in round three, 2002 Quiksilver Pro champion local Joel Parkinson (AUS) in round four and world number four Damien Hobgood (USA) in the quarter finals.
"I'm pleased with myself to make it this far and it was great experience for me. To lose to Kelly is… well he's the best so it's nothing to be ashamed of. There was only really the one good wave in the heat and Kelly got it," said Martinez.
Brazilian teenager Adriano de Souza (BRA) was another rookie who sent a clear warning to the established ranks that the face of this year's tour has changed with the inclusion of a record 10 new rookies in the world's top 45.
The 19-year-old was eliminated in a much closer second semi of the Quiksilver Pro by Burrow to now be ranked at equal third in the world after his first event as a WCT surfer. The two small wave specialists went wave for wave but Burrow managed a heat high 8.33 score after the midway mark to secure a finals berth.
"Getting this result is an amazing accomplishment. I'm very stoked. Hats of to Taj Burrow as he surfed very strong in the semi but I think I made a mark. Surfing against Taj was so good because it made me push myself and I learned a lot from this experience. I'll go to Bells Beach now with a good mind," said de Souza.
Former three times world champion Andy Irons (Haw) also fell to Burrow, eliminated from the quarter finals to finish equal fifth in his first event of the year.
The focus of the Foster's ASP Men's World Tour world now shifts to the Rip Curl Pro scheduled for Bells Beach, Victoria, Australia, April 11 – 21st, 2006.
Foster’s ASP Men’s World Tour Ratings after Event # 1 Quiksilver Pro presented by Samsung, Gold Coast 2006
1. Kelly Slater USA 1200 pts
2. Taj Burrow AUS 1032
3. Bobby Martinez USA 876
3. Adriano de Souza BRA 876
5. Andy Irons Haw 732
5. Taylor Knox USA 732
5. Raoni Monteiro BRA 732
5. Damien Hobgood USA 732
9. Joel Parkinson AUS 600
9. Troy Brooks AUS 600
9. Greg Emslie ZAF 600
9. Travis Logie ZAF 600
9. Tom Whitaker AUS 600
9. Marcelo Nunes BRA 600
9. Pancho Sullivan HAW 600
9. Darren O’Rafferty AUS 600
Slater also picked up some extra pocket money when he grabbed the Evian Longest Tube Ride Award.
Slotting into a deep tube in his round three heat Slater pipped Bruce Irons for the AUD$5000 cash.