Slater Clinches Ninth World Title, Hobgood Claims First Victory in Four Years

The Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) World Tour capped off an amazing week of action for North American surfers at the Billabong Pro Mundaka with Kelly Slater (Cocoa Beach, FL), 36, claiming his ninth world title and 2001 ASP World Champion C.J. Hobgood (Melbourne Beach, FL), 29, claiming his first event victory since Japan in 2004.

With Slater’s title in the bag and Hobgood currently sitting comfortably in the No. 6 spot after his event win, the rest of the surfers from the States will look to better their position amongst the international entourage which makes up the top 45 to increase their rating and solidify a seed for 2009.

Slater’s ninth title came as no surprise after his dominating performances throughout the year. Slater advanced effortlessly into Round 4 over local Basque surfer Eneko Acero (Bilbao, EUK), 31, which was enough to earn title No. 9. The legendary surfer claimed this year was possibly his most successful year of competition on tour.

“In 1996 I had a good year – I won 7 out of 13. In 1996 I won five events of 12 – but both years I was counting ninths,” Slater said. “This year I’ve won five events of eight and I have a second and I still have a throwaway – so my success is a little deeper this year.”

C.J. Hobgood looked as if he would be walking home with a runner up finish in Spain, but a last second set wave allowed the goofy-footer to earn the score needed to steal the lead from fellow finalist Joel Parkinson. Hobgood’s last victory in 2004 in Japan came in similar fashion when the Floridian defeated Parkinson in the dying seconds of that heat as well.

“Me and Joel were looking at that last wave and he was thinking about it hard,” Hobgood said. “I just made sure he was going to go or I was going to go. I didn’t know there was another one behind it, but I did hear a couple of whistles and turned around and saw the wave. I knew it was my last chance. I put my head down and didn’t even look at the wave and paddled to the shoulder as hard as I could because I didn’t want to get stuck behind it. I saw Joel in the peripheral and just threaded the needle. I could have been a little bit greedier, but I knew if I got a barrel and rode the rest of the wave I’d have a good chance.”

The victory for Hobgood comes as a big relief after a rough start to his season: “I had a very difficult year,” Hobgood said. “I probably struggled with my surfing more than I should have, but that’s life. You get older and life throws curve balls at you and that’s what makes this feeling right now so good.”

Bobby Martiniez (Santa Barbara, CA), 26, who was the two-time Mundaka champion entering the event, was ousted in Round 4 by an in form Luke Stedman (Avalon Beach, AUS), 32, and finished ninth overall. Martinez is currently sitting at No. 9 on the ratings and is hoping to better his seed throughout the remainder of the season.

Dane Reynolds (Ventura, CA), 23, who is currently No. 16 overall, is the highest rated rookie on tour. The progressive natural-footer was unable to escape Round 3 in Spain and will look to improve upon his rating at the upcoming Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro in Santa Catarina, Brazil at the end of the month.

Taylor Knox (Carlsbad, CA), 37, got off to a slow start this year, but has earned ninth place finishes in his last three events, moving him up to No. 18 overall.

Chris Ward (San Clemente, CA), 29, is currently sitting in at the No. 21 spot while fellow Orange County native Tim Reyes (Huntington Beach, CA), 26, is following closely behind Wardo in the No. 22 position.

Damien Hobgood (Satellite Beach, FL), 29, has had a hard time recuperating from the shoulder injury he suffered earlier in the year in Tahiti. Damien was a standout in France, placing equal third, but was unable to carry the momentum into the Billabong Pro Mundaka. Hobgood is currently rated No. 30 overall and will need to make a push towards requalification for 2009 in the next two events.

Ben Bourgeois (Wrightsville Beach, NC), 29, is currently ranked 37th overall and will also need standout performances to return for the 2009 ASP Dream Tour season.

ASP World Tour action will cool down until the Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro beginning on October 28, 2008, but the ASP World Qualifying Series will heat back up with the ASP WQS 6-Star Rio De Janeiro International in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil from October 6-12, 2008.