After an extraordinary day of surfing in building two metre (6 foot) plus conditions, six-time Foster’s ASP Men’s World Tour champ, Kelly Slater (USA) emerged from the chilly waters of Jeffreys Bay South Africa to claim the top gong in the 2005 Billabong Pro defeating Andy Irons (HAW) 16.83 to 16.56 out of 20.
This now throws an interesting spin on the ratings as Slater, on 5342 points, has lengthened his lead while Irons, on 4596 points, has leapt past Trent Munro (AUS) who now sits in third on 4286 points and Mick Fanning (AUS) who sits in fourth on 4230 points.
It was an unprecedented occasion as it was the first time the two champs had met in a man on man final and all on hand to witness the event, either live online or at the beach, were treated to some of the most phenomenal surfing ever seen with both surfers pulling no punches in the 30 minute battle.
Irons began strongly when he linked together some hideously powerful rail turns on a sizable wall to score an 8.33 for his opening ride. This in turn forced Slater, who stumbled on his first couple of rides into “playing catch-up for the rest of final.
Slater was by far the standout surfer of the event notching up an astonishing 19.30 to take down Jake Paterson (AUS) in round four and an even better 19.50, (which included a perfect 10 point ride) against Bede Durbidge (AUS) in his quarter final. Yet it looked as though Irons had his number in the final right up until 35 seconds remained.
With the eager crowd roaring, a 1.5 metre wave miraculously appeared for Slater and he took to it with gusto, aggressively attacking the critical section of the wave, executing five tightly rounded turns.
Needing a 9.23 to overtake Irons all waited anxiously after the final bell for the scores to be announced. Irons believed he had victory, but Slater’s arms quickly went skyward when a 9.50 was shouted over the PA and the crowd instantly went into a deafening cheer.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had my back to the wall like that in a final, said Slater proudly clutching the winner’s trophy. “To get one up against Andy is a real feat, he’s just been on it for so many years now and we’ve had a number of heats but I don’t think I’ve beaten him yet. It’s a little bit of redemption to get back at him!
Speaking on the wave that he rode to victory Slater was awestruck by the occasion.
“I’m taking off and I’m hearing everyone scream, I knew that was the wave and it wasn’t going to be the one behind it, he said. “It had the right timing and the right look to it and it was all a bit blurred at this point. I remember my last floater, I landed it, kind of came off, laid back and stood back up in the white water but I don’t know if the judges could see me or not. It was a special wave at a special time and to get that one right at the end made it even better.
Going into the second half of the year Slater’s focus on grabbing another Foster’s ASP Men’s World Tour crown is highly evident.
“I want to win five or six events this year, he continued. I’m pushing for that and if I can win one more event I think I’ll put myself in a really good position.
Irons who left it to the final to show his wares today was obviously disappointed with the last minute loss but was gracious in defeat taking pride in the fact that at the half-way mark of the season he still has a solid chance of retaining his world crown.
“It hurts, he said. “I was on the beach at the end doing the countdown myself and I was thinking, oh my god here comes a wave. It’s one thing to blow a final but to have it so close leaves a pretty sour feeling.
Irons took a wave just minutes before the end of the final which scored an 8.23 and he was hopeful that he had driven the stake right into Slater — but it wasn’t to be.
“On my last wave if I wasn’t gonna go, he was gonna go and who knows he might have got a better score so it’s a tough call, said Irons. “I went, I bettered my score but he just waited patiently. Kelly’s won six world titles and he hasn’t done that by fluke. He’s a really good competitor and he’s definitely the guy to beat.
“There’s a lot of events left, I’ve had a good year with two seconds, a fifth and a bunch of ninths. I think if Kelly wasn’t on the tour I’d be right up there so all I can say is darn him and I look forward to the next event and hopefully I’ll get on a roll from there.
In the best result of his career to date tour rookie Tim Reyes (USA) was over the moon with his third placing giving all recognition to Slater for such a commanding performance
Showing heart all the way through the event, Reyes’s fluid surfing turned many heads and no doubt his fellow competitors will be looking over their shoulders when the tour shifts to Japan for the next event.
“This is the best result in my career so I’m really stoked, said a beaming Reyes. “I’m also really happy to have come here and surfed the waves that I’ve always dreamed about since I was a kid and I also broke the curse I had on me that made me go out of events in the early rounds. I had so much fun and since Kelly beat me I hope he goes on to win the contest. Kelly is my favourite surfer and I know I nearly could’ve had him if he didn’t catch that last wave. But I’ll gracefully lose to him.
Equal third place getter and local South African hero Greg Emslie also achieved a career best and right throughout the final day had full crowd support as he knocked over big guns Taylor Knox (USA) and Joel Parkinson (AUS).
“I stuck to my game plan the whole way through which was to be relaxed, have fun out there and take it to the guys, he said. “I drew some tough competitors and I’m really happy with some of my heats. It felt like an iron man event due to the conditions. You have a good wave, you surf your heart out, kick out and then there’s like four massive sets washing through behind and you’ve got a long paddle back out.
“I’m very happy with the result, I think I learnt a lot in this event just about surfing heats the way I want to surf heats so I’m definitely going to take the knowledge into the next event.
Earlier in the day, as the contest progressed from round four onwards, their were numerous sterling performances with Joel Parkinson (AUS) being one of the standouts.
Parkinson defeated Dean Morrison (AUS) in round four executing an incredibly difficult carving 360 degree turn. Falling to Emslie in the quarter finals Parkinson is now ranked fifth and is still in touch with the front runners
Final day results:
Heat 1: Kelly Slater (USA)17.33, def Tim Reyes ((USA) 13.83
Heat 2: Andy Irons (HAW) 15.67, def Greg Emslie (ZAF)11.00
Kelly Slater (USA)16.83, def Andy Irons (HAW)16,56
Top 10 Foster’s ASP Men’s World Tour ratings:
1. Kelly Slater (USA) 5342
2. Andy Irons (HAW) 4596
3. Trent Munro (AUS) 4286
4. Mick Fanning (AUS) 4230
5. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 3732
6. Fred Patacchia (HAW) 3628
7. Phil MacDonald (AUS) 3599
8. Cory Lopez (USA) 3575
9. CJ Hobgood (USA) 3546
10. Nathan Hedge (AUS) 3443