Okay, okay, this whole predicting the future business is somewhattrickier than I anticipated. When I confidently forecast Joel Parkinsonand Bobby Martinez as our finalists a couple of days back, obviouslywhat I was trying to say was {{{CJ}}} Hobgood and Kelly Slater.

And when I said “favourable winds” clearly what I really meant was aminor gale. Regardless, the indefatigable Kelly Slater has been anointedthe 2008 Globe Fiji Pro Champion after slaying all challengers in aformidable performance of competitive mastery. In testing and blusteryfour to six foot surf, patience and wave choice were key, as Slater’sreign continued.

It was a sad day for Namotu Island and the Aussie contingent, whohaven’t claimed the Fiji event since big Luke Egan won it in 2000, aneight year drought. Slater and Damien Hobgood have now claimed the lastfour Fiji events between them. And, perhaps more importantly, Kelly hasstormed to a commanding title lead, with three wins for the season andno apparent weakening of his powers as middle age approaches.

In my defense, my favored boys Bobby and Parko were both painfullyunlucky to lose their quarters, both apparently having their opponentson the ropes late in their heats. Bobby sat out half the heat with thelead and priority, needing only to better a three to shut the gate onSlater, but took the first wave in a late set for a four, leaving thedoor open for Kelly to take the second wave and snatch victory. Parkowas similarly luckless against Adriano, clinching the lead with a deeptube only to watch it snatched away in the dying moments. In the otherquarters, Taj was too quick and precise for big Bede Durbidge, and CJachieved the rare feat of comboing world champ Fanning with some shrewdtubes and big hits.

Both semis were one-sided affairs, with a supremely relaxed Slatersurfing an almost perfect heat to register two nines and combo astruggling Taj Burrow. CJ had Adriano comboed for most of their semi, andthe Brazilian at least got himself back in range late in the heat, butwas still left needing a nine.

Kelly, happily chatting between heats, and with his own personal jet skichauffeur in Tavarua manager Jon Roseman, couldn’t put a foot wrong inthe final. He established a lead early, snatched scores under CJ’spriority and left his opponent combo-ed for most of the final.

There was a weary sense of resignation among his fellow competitors asSlater claimed victory, as if they are now at a collective loss as tohow to stop the Great One from claiming an outlandish ninth title, andperhaps a 10th if he so chooses. In a break from tradition, thepresentation and festivities are being held on Namotu this year, wherean eager band of Aussies are already in the process of drowning theirsorrows and plotting unspeakable acts of revenge against the Great One.Stay tuned for late mail from all the official presentation mayhem.

(1st wins $US 30,000; 2nd wins $US 16,000)
Kelly Slater def. CJ Hobgood

(1st advances to Final; 2nd finishes =3rd)

Heat 1: Kelly Slater def. Taj Burrow
Heat 2: CJ Hobgood def. Adriano de Souza

(1st advances to Semifinals; 2nd finishes =5th)

Heat 1: Taj Burrow def. Bede Durbidge
Heat 2: Kelly Slater def. Bobby Martinez
Heat 3: CJ Hobgood def. Mick Fanning
Heat 4: Adriano de Souza def. Joel Parkinson