Quiksilver Pro Fiji (May 25-6 June)
Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP)
World Championship Tour (WCT)
It's been eight years since six-time worldchampion Kelly Slater (FL, USA) has won the Quiksilver Pro and he ischomping at the bit to win another title at Fiji's legendary CloudbreakReef.
Coming off the back of his first World Championship Tour (WCT) win in threeyears at Teahupoo, Tahiti, last week, Slater goes into the Quiksilver Pro asequal ratings leader with reigning ASP world champion, Andy Irons (Haw).
Slater, 31, broke one toe and dislocated another during his Tahiti campaign,however with the aid of painkilling injections he hopes to be on his gamefor the US$250,000 Quiksilver Pro. The 13-day competition window for theevent starts this Sunday 25 May.
"Despite the injury, I'm feeling great and can't wait," said Slater."Hopefully my foot holds up for the event. I think I'll have to keepshooting it up so there's not a lot of pain while I surf my heats."
Slater is enjoying being back on top of the ratings and said he has wantedto win the Quiksilver Pro again since the groundbreaking first event atG-Land, Indonesia, in 1995. "Last year I felt like it might happen but Ijust couldn't keep myself consistent, I kind of peaked early," he said.
Now Slater is stoked to be back in the winner's circle (Tahiti was his 24thWCT win) and he said the standard needed to compete well on this year's tourwas highly evident at the first event of the year, the Quiksilver Pro on theGold Coast.
"The first contest got everyone excited and I think that this year willdefinitely be the best year of surfing ever in the history of the earth, andthe guys are definitely going to carry it through to the Quiksilver Pro inFiji," he said.
Slater has a great affinity with Cloudbreak and has been surfing themid-ocean reef break, two kilometers south of Tavarua and Namotu Islands,since he was a teenager.
"I find Cloudbreak to be a thrilling wave, and it's one of my favorite wavesin the world," he said. "It has a lot of different personalities and thewave changes quite a bit as you're riding it. There're a lot of differentsections; you can basically do anything on the wave that you want to, fromone of the heaviest barrels, to big floaters, cutbacks, whatever. I've yetto really see people do aerials out there, it's more of a wave that youcarve the face on, but it's an incredible wave."
Slater has been going to Fiji since 1990 and he said that it feels like asecond home in some ways. "I get there and I know all the people's namesthat work there and they all know me. When I come back from the competitionat Cloudbreak, it's like I've just come home after being away for the day atwork or something.
"The people are just beautiful – just the kindest, nicest people you couldever hope to meet anywhere in the world, and it'll be nice to be somewherereal peaceful."
West Australian Taj Burrow, who finished runner-up to Slater in Tahiti lastweek, is also primed for a serious assault in Fiji. Positioned equal thirdon the current ratings, Burrow will also celebrate his 25th birthday duringthe tournament.
"Fiji should be good," said Burrow. "I know I've got some good boards.Hopefully I'll nail another good result there. It's always a really greatevent and I have my birthday on the Island (Namotu), so as usual I can'twait."
Two-time world champion Tom Carroll, 41, (Sydney, Australia) has beenawarded one of three wildcards for the event. (Carroll has a record of 26WCT wins, surpassed only by American Tom Curren on 33 wins.)
"I love this opportunity to compete against the best guys in the world,"Carroll said. "I often have very close heats with them and I look forward tothe competition, especially in the Fijian arena."
The Quiksilver Trials will be held to select the other two wildcards to meetthe world's Top 45 surfers.
The Trialists wiill be: Troy Brooks (Australia), Damon Harvey (Australia),Fred Patacchia (Hawaii), Alain Riou (Tahiti), Masatoshi Ohno (Japan), TravisLogie (South Africa) and two local Fijian surfers.
Meanwhile, 2000 world champion Sunny Garcia (Haw) has withdrawn from theevent due to impending knee surgery next week and his place will be taken byAustralian Beau Emerton.
You can follow the event daily on http://www.quiksilver.com