Was it inevitable that Kelly Slater would walk away with the trophy? Not really. There are a lot of brilliant surfers out there all itching to seize the crown, but Slater is incomparable and when in form… unbeatable.
Billabong must be pleased with the sensational competition that has just ended in Tahiti. It will be remembered as one of the greatest surf contests in competitive surfing history. The waves were so massive that the contest was actually called off on Saturday because the swell was too big. This has never before happened in the history of the ASP World Tour.
The win has put Slater right back there at the top of the ASP World Tour Rankings, a task made slightly easier by the fact that the previous top 5 in the rankings were all eliminated in the first three rounds of the contest. But it wasn’t all easy for him. He had to survive extremely challenging conditions with his fair share of wipeouts, snapped boards and being sucked over the falls after a backhand barrel in the final, but this supreme surfer hung in there. Summing up the last dying moments of the contest when he was fighting goofy footer Owen Wright to a gripping 18.43 to 17.10 final, Slater said “I felt like I finally hit my stride in the semifinals this morning. In the Final, I fell on a couple of waves that were maybe better than what I ended up getting scored on. It put the pressure on me, and took the pressure off him (Wright). He got that really big one at the end that could have gotten pretty close to the score. These are the best conditions this event has ever run in. It’s been a phenomenal week.”
This is Slater’s 47th win in his 2-decade career and has placed him back at the top of the ASP World Tour Rankings, a task made slightly easier by the fact that the previous top five were all eliminated in the first three rounds of the contest and Jordy Smith of South Africa was out after breaking a rib during his 3-round heat with Travis Logie, but that didn’t mean to say that that lessened the challenge. The remaining surfers in the competition were fine surfers equal to the challenge of beating him and in this case it was Owen Wright who came the closest.
The result throws the world title race wide open. Could it be that that the defending 10-time World Champion will win an 11th World Title? He is now narrowly ahead of Smith and Joel Parkinson.
The Andy Irons Forever Trophy for bravery was convincingly won by Frenchman Jeremy Flores who, in the second round, rode the heaviest wave ever in a surfing competition. He only scored a 4.5 as he did not come out of the tube, but for sheer bravery his was an incomparable feat. He later scored a perfect 20 out of 20 in round 5, but lost to Australian Josh Kerr in the quarter finals.
Bruce Irons, brother of the much loved and missed Andy Irons, was not in the competition despite a petition from the surfing community to allow him in to defend his brother’s title. However, he was granted an expression session and used it in grand style by riding the wave of the whole event (“one of the most intense swells I’ve ever seen,” said Slater) which will put him high in contention for an award at the XXL Big Wave Awards next year.
Congratulations to all competitors. It must have been an awe-inspiring competition!