Today was about Kelly Slater. Yes, there were other performances that shook the beaches of Brazil today and added a pinch of fuel to the title race, (it turns out that Jordy Smith kid is just about as good as they say he is) but in the end, Kelly remained the headliner of Round 2 when he shook off another potentially devastating 33rd by slaying Brazilian wildcard Bernardo Miranda in the unstable, slightly overhead peaks at the Hang Loose Pro in Imbituba, Brazil. Watching Slater surf in his second-round heat with his trademark fluidity and style in full throttle, you couldn't help but feel a sense of excitement as he put some serious hurt on Miranda. Simply put, it felt like Kelly was back to his old self again.
"I've been feeling a bit burned out on competition and I wasn't planning on coming to Brazil or Jeffreys Bay," Slater said. "I was planning on spending a bit of time with my family, but I spoke with Renato [Hickel] and he told me that all the fans in Brazil were looking forward to it, so I decided to come and make the journey down here."
Earlier in the event in the first round of competition Slater suffered another uncharacteristic heat loss at the hands of Timmy Reyes while surfing on a sled borrowed from fellow Quik rider Fred Patacchia. It was the nine-time World Champ's fourth heat loss in a row and a rare blemish on an otherwise spotless career. But today was a new day, and with a little help from the gods and a friend willing to make the journey to the Sao Paolo airport in search of his missing board bag, Kelly was riding on his own, self-shaped equipment and looking damn-near untouchable amid the Brazilian surf.
"Well, it took me about three days to get to Brazil and my boards didn't event show up until 11pm last night," Slater said. "I've definitely been tinkering with my equipment this season, and the board I'm on is actually one I shaped - it's an asymmetrical, swallow-tail quad-fin. It worked pretty well out there, but the conditions are tough. There's not really a defined bank out there, so really anyone can win."
Although Kelly was in fine form today, he was not alone. Surfing with a vengeance and dripping confidence was South Africa's Jordy Smith who threw down the day's highest heat score with a scorcher of 9-point ride in his heat win over Ben Bourgeois.
"It's still pretty tough out there and it's difficult to find a spot to line up," Smith said. "There are some pretty good waves coming through the bowl though and if you can get on them, you can open up a bit. I just got lucky with my wave and was able to put up a couple of scores."
Smith is currently seated at the number-six position on the Tour and is a major player in the hunt for the '09 title.
"I think I put a lot of pressure on myself last season and I'm trying not to do that this year," Smith said. "I'm just having fun and that seems to be working out pretty well. I've had a couple of pretty good events and I'm only looking to improve."
Often put in the same basket as Jordy Smith is California's latest prodigy, Dane Reynolds, who didn't fare so well today in his heat against Tiago Pires. To say that conditions in the event have been "difficult" would be a major understatement. Although the surf has size, it's sporadic, shifty, and lacking teeth. For Dane--a surfer known for making the lackluster shine--the conditions proved to be too much as he failed to land some of the most progressive fin whips of the day and he fell to Pires in his Round 2 heat. This will be the third consecutive 33rd for the 23-year-old Ventura-based surfer for this season.
The following day of competition will see the likes of current World Tour leader Joel Parkinson take on Neco Padaratz as Mick Fanning faces Roy Powers and Kelly Slater squares off against Ben Dunn. The big boys are up so stay tuned to Fantasy Surfer and Surfermag.com for more updates.