19 July 2008
American surfing legend Kelly Slater added yet another chapter to his storied career by convincingly winning the 2008 Billabong Pro at Jeffreys Bay. The victory puts him in prime position to lay claim to an unprecedented ninth ASP World Title after his fourth win in five events this year.
Unfazed by the difficult conditions created by the fresh onshore wind that chopped up the waves at Supertubes, Slater’s superior wave selection and decision-making on the waves he rode left reigning ASP world champion Mick Fanning still needing to improve both of his counting waves when the siren sounded to end the final.
‘I was lucky’
“I was lucky in the final; I got a wave under Mick’s priority that turned out to be my best score,” Slater said on the podium. “In conditions like that you need to go on anything that looks like you can get three manoeuvres in.”
Slater earned $30 000 (approx R225 000) and 1 200 ratings points, giving him a lead of 1 268 points over second placed Joel Parkinson in the 2008 rankings.
With six events still to be run, the Floridian has yet to be beaten by any of his World Tour opponents, having lost to a wildcard in the Billabong Pro Tahiti – the only event he didn’t win.
Slater’s name went onto the Billabong Pro J-Bay trophy for a record fourth time and was presented with a sculptured bust of former South African President Nelson Mandela, chosen by the organisers to celebrate Madiba’s 90th birthday.
“What an honour,” Slater exclaimed when presented with the trophy. “Happy birthday Madiba, you’ve been an inspiration to us all.”
Despite feeling that he could have won the event, Fanning was gracious in defeat, congratulating Slater on his victory. He vowed to use his second place finish, and jump from seventh to fourth on the ratings, as a springboard to challenge for honours in the upcoming events.
“I guess it’s not over ’til it’s over,” Fanning said of the 2008 world title race. “But it’s going to be like climbing Everest and he (Slater) is halfway up the hill.”
After three days of awesome conditions for the opening rounds of the 2008 Billabong Pro, the final day started out with the biggest waves of the event, giving the 12 remaining contenders the opportunity to perform their entire repertoire of manoeuvres on rides lasting more than 300 metres.
Fanning and former world champions CJ Hobgood and Andy Irons were joined by defending event champion Taj Burrow in making it a clean sweep of the top eight seeds into the quarterfinals.
In round four, Burrow eliminated Jordy Smith, the last South African left in the event, sending the Durbanite home with equal ninth place overall. Smith, in his rookie year on the ASP World Tour, jumped from 19th to 16th on the ratings.
After a windless start, a north-east onshore breeze started ruffling the faces of the waves during the quarterfinals where current world number two Parkinson got the better of world number three Bede Durbidge. Slater overcame world number four Adriano de Souza, Fanning eliminated Hobgood, and Burrow stayed on track for a second successive victory by edging out Irons.
By the semifinals the wind had increased in velocity and, despite Parkinson starting out with the highest score of their match-up – an outstanding 9.17 out of 10 – Slater chipped away at the lead with rides of 8.0 and 7.0. When the Aussie failed to find anything better than a 5.0 for his second counting ride, Slater was into the final.
The second semi went Fanning’s way thanks to an opening 7.67, followed by an excellent 9.17, while Burrow’s best two rides in the 30-minute encounter earned 6.0 and 5.83.
Californian Taylor Knox was the recipient of the WTA prize of a custom handcrafted Nixon timepiece valued at US $10 000 for the highest heat tally of the event. He racked up 19.70 points out of a possible 20 in Round 1 action last Thursday, claiming the winner-takes-all award for near perfect rides of 9.90 and 9.80.
Taj Burrow’s spectacular form throughout the event prevented three of the five South African contenders from posting a serious challenge in their home event. Burrow beat wildcard Rudy Palmboom Jr. in round one, eliminated Royden Bryson in round three, and Jordy Smith in round four.
Travis Logie was a victim of Slater’s victory charge, bowing out in round three, while Ricky Basnett, who has yet to win a single heat in 2008, was sidelined by Jeremy Flores in round two.
Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay
- Kelly Slater (USA) 16.73 def Mick Fanning (AUS) 9.40
- SF1: Slater 15.00 def Joel Parkinson (AUS) 14.17
- SF2: Fanning 16.84 def Taj Burrow (AUS) 11.83
- QF1: Parkinson 17.74 def Bede Durbidge (AUS) 14.00
- QF2: Slater 15.17 def Adriano de Souza (BRA) 9.84
- QF3: Fanning 14.27 def C J Hobgood (USA) 9.60
- QF4: Burrow 13.57 def Andy Irons (HAW) 8.47
2008 ASP World Tour Ratings
- 1. Kelly Slater (USA), 5210
- 2. Joel Parkinson (AUS), 3948
- 3. Bede Durbidge (AUS), 3782
- 4. Mick Fanning (AUS), 3753
- 5. Taj Burrow (AUS), 3638
- 6. Adriano de Souza (BRA), 3540
- 7. C.J. Hobgood (USA), 3460
- 8. Andy Irons (HAW), 3338
- 9. Bobby Martinez (USA), 3028
- 10. Adrian Buchan (AUS), 2884
- 16. Jordy Smith, 2245
- 34. Royden Bryson, 1680
- 39. Travis Logie, 1495
- 44. Ricky Basnett, 1125