October 24, 2003 (Mundaka, Basque Country) Six-time world champion KellySlater (FL, USA) today won the Billabong Pro Mundaka and took poll positionfor this year’s world title race. The US$250,000 World ChampionshipTournament (WCT) commenced this morning with both semifinal bouts, and thenmoved immediately into the event’s pinnacle on the last day of its generous13-day waiting period.
Windblown 4ft (1.3m) surf was on offer, but long lefthanders were stillrunning along the epic sandbar.
Slater began the day by achieving his primary goal of overtaking reigningworld champ Andy Irons’ (Kauai, Haw) ratings lead upon reaching theBillabong Pro Mundaka final. Then against West Australian Taj Burrow in the30-minute decider, he surfed a patient match and steadily improved hisstanding, before nailing victory on his last ride for an 8.9 score.
With two previous WCT wins to his credit this season – both Billabong Pro’s(Tahiti & in South Africa) – the Floridian has now racked up 26 careertitles and amassed the most prizemoney in pro surfing (US$968,755) so far.More importantly to him at this stage however, is the 180 points’ advantagehe now holds.
“I’m feeling so good,” began Slater. “I think Andy made a little prophecy atthe beginning of the contest when he said I was going to win, so thank youAndy (laughs). This is great, as it puts me, Andy and Taj all right theretogether and I think it’s exciting for the tour, and each of us. I’m juststoked, as that final was big and puts me a few hundred points ahead. It’san exciting time right now. Andy seemed like he was going to pull away fromus all after the last event, but this one went perfectly our way.
“There wasn’t much in it,” he continued, of the final itself. “Taj got afew, but they weren’t really high scoring waves. I knew I could find a goodone if I waited. I’m glad it actually came when I had priority, which wasgreat.
“Everyone seems really excited,” he added, of the upcoming event in Brazilnext week. “Sounds like there is going to be good waves, and music, andpeople in Brazil have so much spirit and are so excited about surfing andsports in general. Any event right now is going to be really crucial for thetitle and points race, so Brazil is just as important as Hawaii.”
Burrow cemented his position as #3 on the ratings and moved closer to Ironswith another runner-up placing. In a rematch of their Billabong Pro Teahupoofinal in Tahiti this year, the 25-year-old took the lead at times, but neverhad control of Slater. Following his opponent’s last ride, he ultimatelyrequired a near-perfect 9.53 score as the siren sounded. Heading to Brazilnow – where he last won a WCT in 2002 – the West Australian remains a majorworld title contender.
“It was definitely great to make the final, but yeah, it’s a littlefrustrating,” acknowledged Burrow. “It was a close one, but he used hispriority well at the end and got a big score. Pretty devastated as I thoughtI was going to get him, but stoked at the same time.
“I’ve had some good results in Brazil and I hope I get another one there,”he added, of the next tournament. “I haven’t been to Florianopolis before,but I’ve heard it’s fun, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Finishing equal third today in the Billabong Pro Mundaka were AustraliansMick Fanning (Gold Coast) and Nathan Hedge (Narrabeen). Both receivedS$10,000 and more valuable ratings points.
Fanning – the current ratings #4 – faced Slater in what was a rematch fromthe quarterfinal in Japan earlier this year. Despite leading for most theclash, the Australian lost control following his opponent’s 8-point ride. Hedid manage to bridge the gap somewhat with his next 7.5 score, butultimately required another 7.31 at conclusion and was forced to accept hisfourth semifinal finish this season.
“I just didn’t get any good waves and I guess he got a couple,” reasonedFanning. “Mine sectioned here and there, so it didn’t reallyy happen. Whoevergot them was going to win, as is always the way in these events. I’m stokedwith another semi though. Maybe not so happy right now (laughs), but I’mlooking forward to Brazil and Hawaii and will hopefully make a final beforethe end of the year.”
Hedge was pitted against Burrow in the second semifinal, and held a slenderuntil the final 10-minutes. Never one to quite, ‘Hog’ gave his last waveeverything he could in the final seconds, but only posted a 6.5 whensearching for a 7.1. Nonetheless, the 24-year-old secured his best result todate and moved from 29th into 19th position.
“I’m still happy, but a bit pissed off since Taj has beaten me three timesthis year and gone on to the finals,” explained Hedge. “That’s eating me outa bit, but 3rd is the best I’ve gone on tour yet, so I’m happy about that. Iwas rated 29th and there are only three events to go, so I needed to pull myfinger out and this should bump me up. Takes the pressure off for making thetour next year.
“We just had to deal with the conditions in this contest,” he continued. “Itwasn’t the Mundaka we would have loved to have seen, but that’s what surfingis about and I’m happy.”Competitors and ASP officials will now fly all the way to Florianopolis,Brazil, for the next WCT scheduled to commence in a few days – betweenOctober 27 & Nov 4.
The Billabong Pro Mundaka is co-sponsored by Fosters, Vans and Von Zipperand supported by Telefonica, BBK, the “Diputacion de Bizkaia”, the “GobiernoVasco”, the city of Mundaka, the Mundaka Surf Taldea and EHSF (Federation ofSurfing).
Billabong Pro Mundaka Final Results
1st Kelly Slater (USA) 16.63 – US$30,000
2nd Taj Burrow (Aus) 14.1 – US$16,000
Semifinals (1st>Final; 2nd=3rd receives US$10,000)
SF1: Kelly Slater (USA) 14.8 def. Mick Fanning (Aus) 13.27
SF2: Taj Burrow (Aus) 13.1 def. Nathan Hedge (Aus) 12.5
Current Top 10 Ratings After Billabong Pro Mundaka – WCT #9/12
1. Kelly Slater (USA) 7,428
2. Andy Irons (Haw) 6,960
3. Taj Burrow (Aus) 7,020
4. Mick Fanning (Aus) 6,528
5. Joel Parkinson (Aus) 6,300
6. Kieren Perrow (Aus) 6,036
7. Taylor Knox (USA) 5,412
8. Mick Lowe (Aus) 5,388
9. Dean Morrison (Aus) 5,340
10. Daniel Wills (Aus) 5,112