Quiksilver Pro France Day 3

With three and a half contests remaining in the year, Taj Burrow is now the last man standing in the way of Kelly Slater's inevitable ninth world title. Surprise contender Bede Durbidge got waxed today by the same guy who effectively ended Kelly's hopes last year – Tahitian wildcard Michel Bourez. Bourez, a WQS battler, was absolutely on fire pulling down the highest heat total of the contest by far – 19.47 points. Afterwards, Bede didn't even seem to mind. "It's just nice to be part of a title race, if only for a little while," he said.

Taj, meanwhile, absolutely smoked Gabe Kling to set up a do or die showdown with Dane Reynolds tomorrow. Set your alarms tonight, folks. That one will be mandatory webcast viewing. Dane combo-ed Jordy Smith today and looked ready to beat anyone in the chunky, sizey waves not too dissimilar from a winter day in Ventura.

Kelly didn't have it so easy. He again got behind local wildcard Joan Duru after the young goofyfoot started doing successful throw tails in the shorebreak. With less than five minutes remaining, he got the right he needed to pull ahead but it was definitely a struggle. "There hasn't been a stellar performance by me yet but I guess the good news is that it can only get better." Although his heats may be tough, everything else is as cruisy as it gets. He spent yesterday on the golf course and the poker tables for a charity tournament. He's not worried because he knows this title's going to happen — it's just a matter or when and where.

Don't bet on it to be here. Kelly's never won this event and no matter what happens with Taj, he needs a victory in France in order to clinch it. And if Taj makes the semifinals, even if Kelly takes this event, the title race still goes to Spain. In other words, it's not likely, but in year where absolutely everything has gone Kelly's way and no one has challenged him, winning here would only be the icing on the cake.

Whatever goes down it should be exciting. The swell started to pulse hard in the afternoon and should still be solid in the morning. As I type this now in the back office of the contest, the world title trophy is sitting five feet away from me. Will it make an appearance tomorrow on the podium and in the hands of a 9-time world champ? Stay tuned and find out.

(1st advances to Round 4; 2nd finishes =17th)

Heat 1: Adriano de Souza def. Travis Logie
Heat 2: Dayyan Neve def. Heitor Alves
Heat 3: Ben Dunn def. Chris Ward
Heat 4: Bobby Martinez def. Jihad Khodr
Heat 5: Mick Campbell def. Kai Otton
Heat 6: Luke Stedman def. Pancho Sullivan
Heat 7: Taylor Knox def. Tom Whitaker
Heat 8: Kelly Slater def. Joan Duru
Heat 9: Taj Burrow def. Gabe Kling
Heat 10: Dane Reynolds def. Jordy Smith
Heat 11: Rodrigo Dornelles def. Jeremy Flores
Heat 12: Adrian Buchan def. Tiago Pires
Heat 13: Michel Bourez def. Bede Durbidge
Heat 14: Kieren Perrow def. Roy Powers
Heat 15: {{{CJ}}} Hobgood def. Daniel Wills
Heat 16: Damien Hobgood def. Fred Patacchia

(1st advances to Quarters; 2nd finishes =9th)

Heat 1: Adriano de Souza v. Dayyan Neve
Heat 2: Bobby Martinez v. Ben Dunn
Heat 3: Luke Stedman v. Mick Campbell
Heat 4: Kelly Slater v. Taylor Knox
Heat 5: Taj Burrow v. Dane Reynolds
Heat 6: Adrian Buchan v. Rodrigo Dornelles
Heat 7: Kieren Perrow v. Michel Bourez
Heat 8: CJ Hobgood v. Damien Hobgood