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An enthralling final day delivered a dramatic conclusion to the tour opening Quiksilver Pro. The swell shifted about ten degrees overnight and with more easterly direction it came in nicely over just enough sand to produce fun Snapper. Barrels were off the menu this year however the performance track encouraged outrageous surfing as the world's best cut loose.
Snapper brings out the best in ones surfing, the challenge is to link all the sections and display the full extent of ones repertoire. That's how you put up a big number, and from the get go yesterday, the surfing sizzled. The days opening exchange was between tour regular and former Quiksilver Pro champion Dean Morrison and the highly touted South African whiz kid Jordy Smith, the last between reigning World Champion Mick Fanning and 8 times World Champ Kelly Slater.
In between these bookend clashes were the guts of the Dream Tour, the guys laying down their first serious challenges for championship contention. It seems like everyone has lifted their game during the off season. The Aussies have definitely found inspiration from Mick Fanning's title success and the journeymen have all lifted in anticipation of the Dane Reynolds/Jordy Smith onslaught. There were some standouts, even in losing performances, and of course their were dashed hopes as dreams of the perfect start evaporated on the inside section.
The best match in the Rd 16 was between Kelly Slater and Adriano de Souza. Slater had the Brazilian nicely combo'ed with ten to go courtesy of a 9.67 & 8.83. Adriano dug deep and produced his own 9.67, laying down a withering vertical attack on a bomb set wave to not only get the attention of the judges but clearly worked as a focusing agent on maestro Slater. After posting the tournaments highest combined score of 19.20 in Rd 3, Taj Burrow kind of rattled himself by taking a poor wave early in the heat. His opponent, the rapidly improving Adrian Buchan, waved the goofy flag with an outstanding array of vert backhand gouges, knocking up a formidable two wave target that Taj just couldn't narrow.
Dean Morrison was another who seems to have raised it a notch. Yes, it is his home turf and he has won the Quiksilver Pro, but the way he motored past the double threat of Dane Reynolds and Jordy Smith showed serious intent from the Dingo. Mick Fanning and Joel Parkinson were in ominously good form and it was quite apparent that Bede Durbidge was going to travel deep within the tournament. Another who has gone from strength to strength is Jeremy Flores. Arriving in town a good three weeks before kick-off, the newly crowned ASP Rookie of the Year was in blitzing form, accounting for Timmy Reyes in the morning, putting the brakes on Adrian Buchan's charge at lunch time, then narrowly losing to the master Kelly Slater in the arvo.
Bede Durbidge is the quiet achiever. He has really put together a devastating repertoire, has all the moves and delivers them with knockout power. Bede was coming off a season ending win at Pipe, is newly married to his childhood sweetheart, and is a man on a mission. In an absorbing repeat of 2007, Durbidge accounted for perennial contender Joel Parkinson in the first Quarter Final. Parko definitely had the upper hand when he opened his account with a sizzling 8.67, but it was Bede who proved to patiently hunt down the set waves, overtaking Joel for good in the dying minutes.
Both Semi's were nail biters, Bede definitely let Mick off the hook when he fell chasing a low eight and Kelly was gone for all money until he nailed a delirious 9.8 at the decisive five minute mark. He only had a 5.83 as a back-up, whereas Jeremy Flores had surfed a flawless heat, so it was kind of cruel to see the young Frenchman exit on the basis of one wave. But that's sport, and he was against the king of the comeback.
What a dream final. The past two World Champions, the local hero versus the all time greatest, both past winners at Snapper, both hugely followed surfers. The match itself offered some great thrust and parry, Fanning establishing pole position next to the rock, Kelly seemingly conceding the advantage, only to challenge with lightning speed at the first bell, sprinting for the inside, forcing Mick out and in, stealing the opening wave from under the locals nose. Kelly had done this expertly earlier in the day against Adriano de Souza, but to pull it on Mick was astonishing.
With that psychological victory Kelly went on a rampage, racking up a couple solid scores. Mick threw everything at him in response, and looked to be winning the arm wrestle. Then Slater struck a magnificent blow. He possesses an uncanny array of options, and pulled out a triple treat on the winning wave. The variety and execution was beyond comprehension, clearly the best surfed wave outside that freakish one against Flores. Knocking up a commanding 17.94, Kelly put Mick in check with four minutes remaining. The ball was in Fanning's court, we all knew he was capable of nailing a 9, but it was not to be, Kelly Slater arriving on the beach to a hero's reception.
What an awesome event. Top marks to Quiksilver, just a first class show in every aspect. All elements of pro surfing combined to produce a benchmark event. I would have to say that when I came aboard in 1999 this was exactly what I had envisioned as the perfect event. And we didn't even get a swell.
Congratulations to Kelly and Mick, you make surfing the king of sports.
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