Photos by Sherm
Words by Jed Smith
"No! I can't believe it. This guy — he's unbelievable," cries an American fan, both hands clasping his head, as Kelly Slater exits a barrel. He's right. It's the final of the Hurley Pro at Trestles and the 38-year-old, nine-time world champion has just found himself a deep tube at a wave that typically doesn't barrel. It earns him a 9.53 and the contest win over Bede Durbidge. More importantly, it furthers his ratings lead over Jordy Smith, who relinquished the No. 1 slot after losing in the quarterfinals.
"He's the man to beat at Trestles and he dominated. He's got every move in the book, he knows the wave so well. Everything is going for him," said Bede after the final.
The flawless conditions were an extra sweetener for Kelly. The playing field was even and his win was a further reminder of his brilliance despite the fact he's nearing middle age. There was also a sprinkling of fortune for the champ on the final day: His Round 5 opponent, Chris Davidson, failed to show up after falling ill with a violent fever. The Australian had been hoping to make it his second final at Lowers in as many years and had gone to bed early the night prior, only to wake at 2 a.m. with the sweats.
"He was in good spirits when I went up and checked on him," said the event's head security guard. "He just wanted to sleep it off."
Take a closer look at the Semi Pro model, Kelly’s go-to board.Kelly took on reigning world champ Mick Fanning in the next heat — a match-up that brought together two of the sport's most intense athletes.
Mick began his pre-heat psyche up 30 minutes before their clash. He pedaled an exercise bike in the competitors' area with his Skullcandy headset on and left for the heat wearing the blank face of a boxer.
He walked through the crowd alone, shoulders broad, the outline of his back muscles visible through his wetsuit and competitor's jersey. He received pats on the back and a man seized his hand and shook. Mick stared ahead.
But the man they call White Lightning turned to white chocolate and melted against Kelly. In a heat that saw paddle battles, jostling and dummy take-offs, the Coolie kid made a rash of errors and admitted to coming second best in the battle of wits.
On the other side of the draw, the event's form surfer, Dane Reynolds, said he was "lucky" to beat Taj Burrow in his quarterfinal. But in the semis, the percentages finally caught up with his risky brand of surfing.
"I was totally mindfucked. I lost the mental picture of surfing a wave well and from then on I was done. Two minutes in I knew I was gonna lose. I was defeated from the first bobble," Dane said of his loss to Bede Durbidge. His measly heat total didn't break the six-point mark.
Dane also revealed he suffered from exhaustion, like he did during the climax of last year's event when he was placed on a drip before the final.
His third place result will not be enough to put him ahead of fellow tail-high gen-er Jordy Smith, who lost in the quarters; the South African will head to France rated second in the world. Following his loss, Jordy returned to the shore and paused on the pebbles as Dane raced down the line on his opening wave and stuck a full rotation air reverse.
He was then mobbed by kids for an autograph and gave his board to one of them.
"It was a little funky out there," he said of his heat.
Jordy was a victim of strategy by his opponent, Durbidge, who later said, "All contest I was just applying pressure and they would crumble. That doesn't work against Kelly, though."
Asked what else was critical to his success, Bede pointed to his board, revealing that it was the same he'd ridden to his last two semifinal finishes at Trestles. It is unlikely he will challenge for the world title due to the impending birth of his child. Bede has decided to forgo the Portugal event to be by his wife's side in Australia.
"It's pretty important to see my kid's birth. Whatever's gonna happen will happen," he said.