Thursday, October 14, 2004 (Mundaka, Euskadi, Spain) Defending Billabong Pro champion Kelly Slater (FL, USA) today lost any chance of securing the 2004 world title following his round three elimination at Mundaka. The Foster’s men’s ASP World Championship Tournament (WCT) commenced at midday, with nine heats completed before the US$260,000 event was postponed due to deteriorating conditions.
Tiny waves were breaking this morning, but swell continued to increase throughout the day. Solid 6-8 ft (2.5m) surf highlighted the action, before larger sets and the incoming tide forced organizers to hold off running any more competition.
Slater, the six-time world champion and current ratings runner-up, faced long-time nemesis Shane Beschen (HAW, USA) in this afternoon’s last heat. Ironically, both contestants caught waves before their match began by mistake. Once the 30-minute clash was underway however, 32-year-old Slater took an initial lead with his opening 4.5 score. Beschen answered back with a 5.83, and even lower scores continued until the former world #2 posted a 6.33 to surge ahead. The Floridian then locked in his best 5.17 ride with 5-minutes remaining, requiring just 6.99-points to bridge the gap. A number of waves passed, but none ridden by him, and subsequently his second 17th placing of the season was finalized.
More importantly, the result signifies the end to his world title campaign. Mathematically, even if Irons were to lose next heat and then suffer consecutive 33rd placings in Brazil and Hawaii, while Slater gain two wins, the adjusted ratings would be Irons on 7,548-points, with Slater less on 7,380.
“It was frustrating, began Slater. “Shane and I were both in the same boat as the waves weren’t very good. I took a bad wipeout at the beginning of the heat and it kind of rattled me. Sometimes things just all go against you, and it seemed like that then. I really didn’t have the right board. You needed a 7’6 to paddle out there, but a 6’3 when you’re on the wave. I guess I didn’t have it today, and the result obviously doesn’t help me at all.
For Beschen, it provided sweet revenge. Having contested many classic battles over the years against Slater, he most recently lost to him in Japan last month. Now into round four, the result has already equaled his best this season.
“All I can say is I’m stoked, stated Beschen. “Conditions were really hard out there, so I just tried to make it to my advantage. I knew a five or a six out there was going to be a pretty big score, so I focused on getting two of those. Turned out Kelly couldn’t find the wave he needed. Every heat is crucial for every guy, so I’m really happy to be through.
2001 world champ CJ Hobgood (FL, USA) suffered a similarly harsh blow today, being eliminated by Australian Trent Munro and losing his title chances. Munro surfed great on his backhand to execute a series powerful turns for 7.67 and 8.17 scores, leaving Hobgood a combination of rides behind. The current ratings #3 pulled into one deep barrel which may have made a difference had he emerged.
“The swell kicked in during our heat, and the waves were fun for me, but unfortunate for CJ, reasoned Munro. “I saw the one he tried to get barreled on, but I wasn’t trying to find them out there. I’ve had a pretty slow year, so I can only better my situation from here. Hopefully I can go further in this contest.
Meanwhile, reigning two-time world champion Andy Irons (HAW) displayed awesome form to dominate Brazilian Armando Daltro. The current ratings leader posted a huge 9.1 score for his committed backhand turns and air-drop floater one wave, and then secured another 9.03 for the highest combined tally of the tournament so far. Having won his second WCT of the season less than two weeks ago in nearby France, the Kauaian is now a clear favorite at Mundaka.
“I was able to link a few together, while Armando just looked out of rhythm, said Irons. “I was in the right place at the rigght time, so it was one of those heats that went my way.
Following Slater’s loss, Irons offered these words; “That was an awesome heat. Not too many times you see a 17th place round with Kelly and Shane in it, and it’s great for my cause that Shane won. I’m not counting any eggs before they hatch, but yeah, game on.
Only Joel Parkinson (Gold Coast, AUS) retains a mathematic possibility of stopping Irons from winning a third consecutive world title now, and basically requires huge results at Mundaka and the following two WCT events this year. Irons, meanwhile, would have to lose early in each for this situation to transpire.
Brazilian Raoni Monteiro overcame a broken surfboard and West Australian Jake Paterson to advance into round four. The 22-year-old locked in a 6.83 ride, before breaking his board on one of the day’s larger sets. His opponent only required an average 5.34 score for the latter half of the heat, but was unable to find it.
“It was hard to surf as when you paddle for a wave you don’t if it was going to closeout or be a good one, explained Monteiro. “I tried my best, but then I broke my board on a set. Luckily I had enough points already.
Tom Whitaker won the day’s opening clash against fellow Australian Nathan Hedge. The pair had been on standby for over a week, waking each morning ready to compete, but once the heat commenced it was Whitaker who was most prepared. The current #33 opened his campaign with a great 8.5 ride through the mid section of the venue, while his higher rated opponent searched the break in vain for a similar score.
“I always had the plan to sit down at that section, and got a lucky first one which I guess was the whole heat, said Whitaker. “I didn’t want to lose after waiting around all week (laughs). Hopefully the waves pump for the rest of the contest.
Billabong Pro Mundaka Round Three (1st>Rnd4; 2nd=17th receives US$4,225)
H1: Tom Whitaker (AUS) 13.7 def. Nathan Hedge (AUS) 11.1
H2: Dean Morrison (AUS) 14.5 def. Tim Curran (USA) 14.33
H3: Phillip MacDonald (AUS) 12.83 def. Taylor Knox (USA) 11.77
H4: Trent Munro (AUS) 15.84 def. C.J. Hobgood (USA) 10.1
H5: Damien Hobgood (USA) 13.5 def. Darren O’Rafferty (AUS) 12.6
H6: Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 10.83 def. Jake Paterson (AUS) 9.1
H7: Cory Lopez (USA) 15.17 def. Paulo Moura (BRA) 12.04
H8: Andy Irons (HAW) 18.13 def. Armando Daltro (BRA) 11.0
H9: Shane Beschen (USA) 12.16 def. Kelly Slater (USA) 9.67
Remaining Billabong Pro Mundaka Round Three Heats (1st>Rnd4; 2nd=17th receives US$4,225)
H10: Peterson Rosa (BRA) vs. Pat O’Connell (USA)
H11: Luke Egan (AUS) vs. Neco Padaratz (BRA)
H12: Michael Lowe (AUS) vs. Kalani Robb (HAW)
H13: Joel Parkinson (AUS) vs. Nathan Webster (AUS)
H14: Lee Winkler (AUS) vs. Richard Lovett (AUS)
H15: Taj Burrow (AUS) vs. Troy Brooks (AUS)
H16: Daniel Wills (AUS) vs. Victor Ribas (BRA)
The Billabong Pro Mundaka is supported by prestigious co-sponsors such as Vans, Von Zipper, Hertz, Yamaha and Cobra Jet ski, as well as local companies and administrations such as Mundaka, the Mundaka Surf Club, The Basque Surfing Federation, Bakio and the Bakio Surf Club, BBK, Telefonica and the Basque Government.