Kelly Slater wins Quiksilver Pro

Here's a shattering blow for all the Surf Industry Conspiracy Theorists: Kelly Slater hasn't won a Quiksilver-sponsored WCT event since Biarritz in 1996.

Till yesterday, that is. The world champ completed a steady march to form at Duranbah by taking down Taj Burrow in a Quik Pro final heat that was as entertaining as the surf would ever have allowed.

This event didn't go the way anyone expected, not from the day that crazy storm showed up and blew out the Stupidbank. But at each step Kelly found something to enjoy in the conditions. He towed huge waves in the storm, and on finals morning, he paddled out to the two foot D-Bah wedges with a little tingle, thinking it was a bit like Sebastian Inlet when he was a kid. "It took megetting my head around it a little bit," he said. "It's hard to surf Pipe all year and then come here and get excited about a one foot wave, but I actually was."

That was one key to a very classy all-round win during which the champ didn't so much smash the opposition as flow around it. He now has 32 tour victories, one short of Tom Curren's record, and he knows it. Kelly's inches from the last record left to him to break.

Here's a quick summary of the semifinalists:

Adriano De Souza's the serious new kid on the block, the quick learner, the natural winner. He NEVER gives up. Against Taj in the semis, he was still trying {{{100}}}% to win, even with waves breaking on his woolly little head and 45 seconds on the clock. You can tell he feels he belongs at the top level of thesport and he isn't afraid of a world title shot. (Surprisingly, quite a few top surfers are - afraid, that is.)

Taj has been a bit afraid in the past, at times. But world titles are like babies, in an odd sort of way, and perhaps he's feeling the biological clock ticking at last. Taj the former Boy Genius is 27 years old and getting over a broken foot that crippled his 2005 run. He came out of the water on Thursday after beating AI with a glint in his eye, looking like a bloke who'd not be satisfied with third.

Bobby Martinez is - like the other successful rookies - relishing everything about the tour. He came into the media room unprompted after the quarterfinals. "Anything you want me to do for you?" he asked the stunned media staff, whonormally have to lasso their prey like runaway stallions. "I didn't know what to expect before coming here, you know, but it's been great!" he told Surfing. "Damien Hobgood's offered to give me some advice as I go along, I'll be stayingwith him in Tahiti ... I've got a lot of questions now!"

Slater, well, he's Slater, tour elder statesman all of a sudden, cruising, in control of his destiny no matter what happens, in heats or out.

"It all sorta happened naturally," he said of the procession of heat wins that carried him to victory. "The thing I flashed on paddling out this morning was the importance of being ready to play offense and defense at anytime... There's a lot of different layers to that." We saw a nice illustration of it in his semi with Bobby, when Martinez - holding priority - was partly bluffed into passing up the best wave of the heat by Slater's paddling to his inside. At the last moment Slater, realizing Bobby wasn't going, spun, took off, and racked up the heat's highest score.

During the final he spent almost the whole session in second priority, conceding wave choice to Taj, but also creating a kind of pressure on his opponent: If it's two feet and shifty and you've got free choice of wave, which DO you choose?

As a result, Taj waited too long and played his waves too frantically when they came, while Kelly paddled wider and relaxedly worked himself toward some big scores. Eventually, when he took priority, he picked up the final's best ride. "It didn't actually look like a great wave," he said, "but I thought Taj might be able to make something of it, so I took it. In that way it was a defensive sorta move too."

Slater can talk about these hinge points in a heat for ages; the whole picture's in his head. He's very aware of the broad vision of a heat unfolding. Does he think most of his opponents have a similar awareness? Calmly and without hesitation comes his reply: "No."

It's never wise to try to pick trends from the year's first event; so much can change, even in the month till Bells Beach. But your correspondent thinks Kelly just answered the question about chasing number eight. He's still finding ways to win, and as long as you're doing that, you're in the hunt.


Semi One: 1 Kelly Slater 17.84, 2 Bobby Martinez 8.5

Semi Two: 1 Taj Burrow 17.00, 2 Adriano De Souza 15.27

Final: 1 Kelly Slater 16.17, 2 Taj Burrow 14.60