SNICKERS Australian Open
5 star WQS event
Maroubra Beach, Sydney
15 – 21 March
Six-time world surfing champion, American Kelly Slater has blown away his opposition in the Snickers Australian Open five-star World Qualifying Series event at Sydney’s Maroubra beach.
In junky 1-1.5 metre waves, Slater used every trick in the book to out-point his rivals with Cronulla’s Kirk Flintoff, Brazil’s Neco Padaratz and the USA’s Damien Hobgood forced to fight it out for the minor placings.
From his opening heat the American legend looked unstoppable, consistently posting high scores, including the day’s only perfect 10 in his semi-final.
But in the 30 minute decider Slater continued to turn up the heat. Thousands of surfing fans cheered as the 33 year-old took to the sky and carved his way to victory, eventually claiming the first professional surfing event to be held in Sydney in over five years.
Obviously appreciative of the huge numbers and vocal support of the Sydney beach crowds – Slater commented after his win – “This has been a fantastic event and I thank you all for all your warmth – fantastic local community here and Sydney needs an event like this for the sport – It’s no secret that the community here is embroiled in some situations and I just hope you can all pull together and work through it as a community – I’m looking forward to coming back next year!”
Slater last won in Sydney in 1997 and today’s performance earns the American $12,000 and lifts his total career victories to 38. The result has no bearing on the World Championship Tour title race yet is crucial for any surfer trying to qualify for the elite series.
Runner-up, 21 one-year-old Kirk Flintoff of Cronulla, also earnt the praise of the crowd, pulling two massive frontside aerials. Flintoff finished 2003 rated 56th in the world but today’s result was easily a personal best.
Finishing equal fifth today were Mona Vale’s Luke Stedman and South African Travis Logie.Snickers Australian Open crowds were also treated to a special Tooheys Extra Dry Expression Session with $500 cash being awarded for the “Best Maneuver” and “Best Wave”.
Brazilian Marcelo Nunes and Aussie Phil MacDonald had the honour of taking home the money, but it wasn’t the only thing on the surfers minds.
There was also bonus prize, a slab of Tooheys Extra Dry, that went to two dedicated Sydney City Roosters fans – current world number three Tom Whitaker and fellow WCT surfer and good mate Luke Hitchings.
The Bronte locals were a shoe-in for the “Most Entertaining” category when they paddled out wearing Roosters jerseys and waving supporters flags.
Surfing’s World Qualifying Series now heads to Newcastle for the four-star Energy Australia ‘MR’ Open.