Meet the kid who took down a king
NSW teenager Owen Wright has pulled off a huge upset, ousting reigning nine-time surfing world champion American Kelly Slater from the Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach.
Wright, 19, defeated Slater 14.67 to 13.83 in round two of the knockout event which yesterday returned to pumping surf in the two metre range after nearly a week of waiting.
The Culbaara goofy-footer joins Coolumn's Julian Wilson as the second Aussie young gun to down 'King Kelly' in ASP tour events this year.
Wright, a Rip Curl Pro wildcard, drove out to an early lead with his critical backhand attack, netting a 14.67 out of a possible 20, while Slater hunted barrels on his forehand.
“I am really happy, it has been a long week waiting to surf against Kelly Slater,” Wright said.
“I have just been relishing it and waiting for it. Out there, I just stayed on my own game and really just concentrated on what I was doing.
“I just got the set waves and surfed them, then the ocean went flat at the end and I kept the win.”
“I am just rapt with that heat and really happy to get one over Kelly Slater. There won't be many chances like that one to come around.”
Slater displayed his patented mastery of the Bells bowl, sliding into barrels and smashing the lip on several occasions, but a failed exit on a double-barrel wave cost the Floridian the score needed.
“It was reminiscent of a heat I had out here against Sunny Garcia in 2000,” Slater said.
“I needed to come out of a second barrel to get through the heat and fell. Sunny went on to win the event and the world title.
“I didn't see too much of Owen (Wright) surfing in the heat, but he did one big turn in front of me and I'll have to watch the video later.”
The result marks the second equal 17th finish for Slater in 2009, making his campaign for an unprecedented 10th ASP World Title much more difficult.
“The magic hasn't been there yet this season like it was last year,” Slater said.
“However, I just have to remember that it's early in the season and there's a long way to go.”
Current ASP World No.1, Coolangatta's Joel Parkinson, looked strong yesterday, unleashing a flurry of fluid carves and explosive lip manoeuvres to secure the highest single-wave score of the day, a 9.23 out of a possible 10.
“There is nothing better than coming over the hill for Bells,” Parkinson said.
“Especially when you know you have an early morning heat, a low tide, it's offshore and it is 4-6 foot. It has probably only happened two to three times in my career so I will definitely remember this one for a while.”
Tweed Heads' Mick Fanning, the 2007 world champ and 2001 winner at the Rip Curl Pro, was in sensational form as well yesterday morning, securing the day's high heat total of a 17.16 out of a possible 20.
“The waves are pumping right now, it is so consistent,” Fanning said. “It was a bit nerve-wracking not surfing for a week as you normally have the round one surf to work out how things are going.”