No tears as Slater departs
KELLY Slater's early exit from the Quiksilver Pro got the competitive juices flowing as the world's best fight it out at Snapper Rocks.
There's been no tears shed for the nine-time world champion, who was out-surfed and out-manoeuvred by brazen Australian wildcard Julian Wilson in their sudden-death heat on Sunday.
The loss made it a bad start to the year for Slater as he chases a 10th world title.
His rivals, however, are joyous at the demise of the outright favourite, clearing the way for a new emerging champion.
Local stars Mick Fanning and Joel Parkinson will fly the flag for the Aussies, while America's Hobgood twins CJ and Damien and young gun Dane Reynolds are also hot on the trail.
Former event winner West Australian Taj Burrow, who booked a berth in the fourth round on Monday after defeating 30-year-old rookie Drew Courtney, said Slater's elimination made for an interesting start to the year.
“It's early days, but obviously with Kelly going out it's pretty interesting and that really gives us other guys a chance to pounce in the ratings,” he said.
Burrow, who won the first Quiksilver Pro in 2001, is a strong chance for a repeat, along with fellow round three winner Bede Durbidge.
Durbidge, a major contender for the world title this season, paid due credit to Slater's slayer, the 20-year-old Wilson, who has enjoyed wildcard status at Snapper for the past three years.
“It's pretty crazy that Julian took out Kelly, I knew Julian would give him a good run for his money, but ... he surfed like he's been on the tour for years and well done to him,” Durbidge said.
And while he said Slater's shock defeat on the Gold Coast threw open the race for the world title, it was premature to rule Slater out.
“There's going to be a new world number one after this event, (but) it doesn't really matter because you can drop two events (for the year),” he said.
“I'm sure Kelly will come back stronger than ever.”
As round three wrapped up at Snapper, organisers said they were contemplating a move to nearby Kirra for the final two days of competition.
Cyclone Hamish's movements off the north Queensland coast have whipped up waves on the south-east coast, with the potential for even bigger barrelling rides at the once famous surf spot.
If the competition is moved, it would be the first time in 12 years Kirra has hosted a world tour event.