Kelly Slater shows why he?s king of the world
By ANDREW McKINNON
EYEING a seventh world title The King of Surfing and the greatest ever surfer on the planet, Kelly Slater continues to blow minds and shatter record books with his latest triumphant victory, the Billabong Pro at JBay, South Africa and his third WCT victory for the year.
"This is what it's all about," said the President of ASP International, Rabbit Bartholomew, who joined with fellow former world surfing champion and South African surfing legend Shaun Tomson and contest director Mike 'Snips' Parsons to articulate the action live on the Internet, with 45 millon viewers logged, setting records.
The standout heat in round three between Bruce Irons and Mark Occhilupo was fantastic with the lead exchanging a couple of times and Occy surfing like 1984 when as a 16-yearold grom he won the very first professional event there. Occ's brand of power gouge backhand hacks and snaps against the freakish, Spiderman tube riding skills of the younger Irons brother.
"I'd rather match him in the barrel than his turns," said Bruce, who was sharing a house with the Occster and Billabong Team mate, Luke Egan, also doing an excellent job of commentary.
The Raging Bull was disappointed when he surfed his heart out and came up short against Bruce Irons.
Parko was having a big run until falling in the quarters to South African powerhouse Greg Emslie who faulted to Andy Irons in the semis, while Kelly had to work hard to fend off new Huntington Beach talent, Timmy Reyes in the semis.
The stage was set for a fitting finale and the fairytale finish was as good as it gets - Slater and Irons in their first man-on-man match-up, a final carrying nine world titles and a huge bearing on this year's worlds title.
Going into the final, Andy easily dispatched home hero Greg Emslie and a fall on Kelly's first wave looked like fatigue was setting in.
Andy started well with an 8 and Kelly responded with a 7. As the time went on it looked like Andy would take control. Controversy is never far away especially when the result is so close. When Andy Irons hit the beach with three minutes to go and landing his second 8 point ride on his last wave, the defending champion and three times current World Champion had won the final.
Andy took the second last wave with priority and he admitted, "Kelly would have gone for it if I hadn't."
As the clock ticked down to 12 seconds remaining, Kelly took a wave that came out of nowhere and he went to town on it with the full power, carve and commitment. He needed a 9.23 to win and so far in the final the highest score was an 8.5 from Andy, it was high tide and only just holding up with 6 to 8ft waves and the occasionally 10 cleanup set and a tall order to try and score over 9. Slater knew he had to throw everything at that wave and it was the 4th successive vertical crack in the lip that persuaded the judges to score a 9.5.
The debate of whether that was a 9.5 ride or just a 9 will keep the tongues wagging and the Irons camp were shattered but in the end Kelly Slater earnt this emphatic victory.