Six-time world champion Kelly Slater today claimed the inaugural Globe WCT Fiji title in six-to-eight foot lefthand waves at Restaurants, Tavarua, that were described as some of the most perfect ever surfed in the Foster’s Men’s World Tour.
In the process, the 33-year-old Floridian moved into the number one ranking on the Foster’s ASP World Tour, reinvigorating his campaign for a seventh world title.
It is the first time Slater has held the lead in the world ratings since he famously jousted with Andy Irons for the 2003 world title, and comes on the back of his win two weeks ago at the Billabong Pro at Tahiti’s infamous Teahupoo.
Slater, surfing on his backhand, comfortably defeated Florida’s CJ Hobgood in the final, posting three nine point rides to leave his opponent needing a combination score to catch him.
Slater dominated the final from the bell, surfing fearlessly over the near-dry reef, posting a 9.0 and a 9.63 in succession to claim the title.
The win was Slater’s first ever in Fiji, one of the only venues on the world tour that the Floridian — who has now amassed a record 28 WCT career victories — had yet to claim victory at.
“It’s the one place I’ve never been able to win before, and to finally do it was something pretty special, said a jubilant Slater afterwards. “I wanted to move to this place last year and I almost did!”
Prior to Tahiti, a seventh world title had not even appeared on the radar for Slater, and he had toyed with the idea of skipping events and competing selectively. But the back-to-back wins have not only rocketed him to the top of the ratings, but also lit the fire of a seventh world title campaign.
“Before Tahiti I was thinking about not going to Africa and foregoing this year and not chasing another title, because I wasn’t feeling into it,” said Slater.
“But these last couple of weeks I’m enjoying competition more and, y’know, I didn’t think that would happen. It’s a long year and you can’t get caught up thinking too far ahead, but I really would really like another (world title).
“These last couple of weeks have been amazing, the last 10 days have been unbelievable for me. Two wins in a row, I didn’t even win an event last year. I could feel the fire sitting there smouldering and just did not do much with it. I feel I can surf better than I ever have and just enjoy it at the moment.”
Slater now heads into the next event on the Foster’s Men’s World Tour in two weeks time — the Rip Curl Pro at Reunion Island where the waves are similar to the past two events he has won — as the tour leader.
Slater’s win over CJ Hobgood in Fiji was his second win in succession over a Hobgood — he defeated CJ’s twin brother Damien in the final in Tahiti, posting an ASP record two perfect tens in the process.
And while his final tally in Fiji today of 19.33 (from 20) didn’t quite match his perfect score in Tahiti, Slater’s dominance was obvious in the perfect conditions, easily trumping Hobgood’s heat total of 15.16.
“There wasn’t much I could do out there against him, it was just his day out there, said CJ Hobgood later.
Slater earlier in the day had defeated Hawaiian rookie Fredrick Patacchia Jr in the semi-finals. His third-place finish was Patacchia’s best result in his debut WCT year and catapults him up to number six in the world.
CJ Hobgood, meanwhile, defeated Hawaiian Bruce Irons — brother of reigning world champion Andy Irons — in the other semi.
“The waves were pretty perfect out there, said Irons, “but they were still tricky to ride. I just couldn’t find my way out of a good one. I’m definitely doing a lot better than last year so I hope I can just keep it going.
South African Rookie Travis Logie also posted his highest career finish, making the quarter-finals before succumbing to a nagging shoulder injury. The young South African has been spending so much time in the tube that his left shoulder — the one that drags in the face of a wave when he rides in the barrel — had become painful, and he was forced to retire in the dying stages of his heat with Fred Pattachia.
“I’m pretty stoked with this result, just bummed I had such a shocker heat though,” said Logie.”I hurt myself and snapped my board so it was pretty much the worst heat I could of had. But I got there and that is the main thing so I am stoked to get this result so early in my first year on the tour.
Slater leads the Foster’s ASP tour ratings on 3542 points, just in front of Australia’s Trent Munro on 3276, CJ Hobgood (USA) 3096, Andy Irons (HAW) 2964 and Mick Fanning (AUS) on 2620.
In the Foster’s Expression Session — held in the lead up to the final — Hawaiians Bruce Irons and Ian Walsh pocketed $US2,000 and $US1,000 respectively for the longest tube rides.
QUARTER FINAL RESULTS
H3:Kelly Slater (USA) 17.74 def. Dean Morrison (AUS) 14.93
H4:Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 18.10 def. Travis Logie (ZAF) 7.60
SEMI FINAL RESULTS
H1:CJ Hobgood (USA) 17.67 def. Bruce Irons (HAW) 15.23
H2:Kelly Slater (USA) 19.57 def. Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 16.86
H1:Kelly Slater (USA) 19.33 def. CJ Hobgood (USA) 15.16
Foster’s World Championship Tour ratings (after four of 13 events)
1. Kelly Slater (USA) 3542 points,
2. Trent Munro (AUS) 3276,
3. CJ Hobgood (USA) 3096,
4. Andy Irons (HAW) 2964,
5. Mick Fanning (AUS) 2620, 6. Fred Patacchia (HAW) 2618,
7. Damien Hobgood (USA) 2589,
8. Dean Morrison (AUS) 2474,
9. Cory Lopez (USA) 2433,
10. Taj Burrow (AUS) 2428.
For more photos, videos, and “Wha Happ’n?” starring Chris Cote go to www.globefiji.com