King Kelly rules at Billabong Pro in Jeffreys Bay
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 (AUS) still needing to improve both of his counting waves when the siren sounded to end the final.
“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 US $30 000 (approx R225 000) and 1 200 ratings points giving him a lead of 1 268 points over second placed Joel Parkinson (AUS) 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 also gets his name on the perpetual 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 tomorrow.
“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 and vowing 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 ‘till 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 (USA) and Andy Irons (HAW) were joined by defending event champion Taj Burrow (AUS) in making it a clean sweep of the top eight seeds into the quarterfinals.
In Round 4 it was Burrow who eliminated Jordy Smith, the last South African left in the event, sending the Durbanite home with equal 9th 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 NE onshore breeze started ruffling the faces of the waves during the quarterfinals where current World No 2 Parkinson (AUS) got the better of World No. 3 Bede Durbidge (AUS), Slater overcame World No. 4 Adriano de Souza (Brazil), 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. Knox 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. (Bluff) in Round 1, eliminated Royden Bryson (East London) in Round 3 and Jordy Smith in Round 4.
Travis Logie (Durban) was a victim of Slater’s victory charge, bowing out in Round 3 while Ricky Basnett, who has yet to win a single heat in 2008, was sidelined by Jeremy Flores (FRA) in Round 2.
All the action from every heat in the 2008 Billabong Pro can viewed in the Video section of the website www.billabongpro.com where event statistics, athlete interviews and a range of photographs can also be found.
Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay
Final day Results
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
Heat 5: Fanning 16.44 def Bruce Irons (HAW) 13.33
Heat 6: Hobgood 14.76 def Frederic Patacchia (HAW) 10.33
Heat 7: Burrow 17.00 def Jordy Smith (ZAF) 16.76
Heat 8: Irons 11.34 def Jeremy Flores (FRA) 5.23
2008 ASP World Tour Ratings
After Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay (event No. 5 of 11)
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 (ZAF) 2245
34 Royden Bryson (ZAF) 1680
39 Travis Logie (ZAF) 1495
44 Ricky Basnett (ZAF) 1125
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