In drizzly, almost-perfect, 6ft Mundaka, Kelly Slater won a record ninth ASP World Title when he advanced into Round 4 of the Billabong Pro on Friday. Kelly was knocked out soon afterwards by Tom Whittaker, but nothing could dampen the moment for the 36 year-old who has dominated the 2008 tour winning five of the eight events staged so far.
Slater’s 2008 crowning comes 16 years after claiming his first ASP World Title at age 20. He is the oldest and youngest surfer in ASP history to win a world title. Slater showed no signs of pressure in the world title deciding heat, tactical as ever against local Basque surfer Eneko Acero (EUK) winning the round three Billabong Pro Mundaka heat to once again rewrite the sports history books. Despite entering his 14th year on tour already the owner of most every accolade in professional surfing, 2008 has been a banner year for Slater. Five wins in the first eight events of the year.
Stop number 9 on the ASP World Tour had a cloud hanging over it this year after some competitors complained that Mundaka wasn’t a good enough venue for the Dream Tour. In fact, the competitors love Mundaka when it breaks, but some complain that it is too inconsistent at this time of year and since the wave only breaks properly in the four hours around low tide, the chances of catching it perfect for the the contest are too slim – as evidenced by two years in which most of the event was surfed at nearby Bakio, one of the worst beachbreaks in the world.
Organizers this year made Sopelana – a consistent beachbreak 45 minutes over the winding hills from Mundaka – the alternate spot, and while Round 1 kicked off in crappy beachbreak surf there, it was, at least, good crappy beachbreak surf, and with a rising swell no one was complaining. The next day, Mundaka obligingly broke for Round 2 and some of Round 3 which saw 4/5ft barrels firing down the line, boards broken and upsets galore. Royden Bryson topped the day’s scores with a perfect 10 and a 9. 8, knocking out goofy-foot favourite Damien Hobgood. Pancho Sullivan surfed an incredible heat but fell to team-mate Ben Dunn, and the new new school poster-boy Dane Reynolds was sent packing by old school Ozzie mucker, Mick Campbell.
By the end of Day 2 it was clear that Mundaka’s cloud had lifted. The ASP’s use of overlapping heats – the first entering 15 minutes before the second and retaining priority until it the ends – meant Billabong could run off enough of the event to ensure optimum timing for the big swells, and the audience could enjoy more action and fewer long waits.
Day 3 saw more drama as European star Tiago Peres (Portugal) fell to Adrian Buchan, still on fire after his win at the Quik Pro in France. The nine-time champ fell in Round 4 to Tom Whittaker who rode classic Mundaka wave complete with double barrel, giant off-the-top and huge floater – to take a perfect 10 score, and give Slater a chance to celebrate his 9th world championship.