What: Rip Curl Pro presented by Snickers, ASP World Tour event # 2
Where: Bells Beach, Victoriam, Australia
When: 18 – 29 MArch 2008
Kelly Slater (USA) has further asserted that he is the best surfer on earth after winning the Rip Curl Pro today. Launching a huge air to earn a last minute score and beat Bede Durbidge (AUS)in the final, the 36-year old has claimed his 36th event win and rung the bell for the third time.
“It feels awesome; it feels really good, ” Slater said. “The Bell is arguably the best trophy you can win in surfing. I do have a couple, but to get there and have the chance and get a third one feels really good. I’ve just joined my good friend Sunny (Garcia) with three, and I think MR (Mark Richards) and MP (Michael Peterson) have four or five – those guys are crazy.”
Slater trailed Durbidge for the first 27 minutes of the 30-minute affair. Surfing his fourth heat of the day, the 8X ASP World Champion was tired and had all but given up. “I thought Bede had me,” Slater said. “I wasn’t trying to worry too much or stress – I was happy just to be in the Final – but before the heat I heard Rabbit (ASP President) say something about going up to Rincon so I thought I would sneak up there to see what I could find.”
What he found was a ramp from which to launch a daring double-grab aerial. He was awarded an 8.83 (out of 10.00) for the massive maneuver and took the lead. “I was really surprised Bede (Durbidge) let me paddle up to Ricon by myself,” Slater said. “I thought that when I looked back, he would be 10 yards behind me, but when I looked back, he was still in the Bowl. Then that wave came that let me do that big air.”
Claiming victories in the first two events on the 2008 ASP World Tour, Slater has now replicated the 2006 season-start that eventuated in his 8th ASP World Title. He confirmed that’s he’s made plans to attend the next event in Tahiti and is thinking about No. 9.
“It’d be silly to say it’s not on the radar somewhere, but my whole approach and attitude at this point is just to have fun,” Slater said. “There is a lot of hype with Dane (Reynolds) and Jordy (Smith), and don’t think it’s just hype – those guys are the real deal. I know it’s got me excited to see what I can do on a wave and to push my equipment. The title thing is there to get, but at this point it’s more about pushing my performance to see how much I can do on a wave.”
Slater retains the World No. 1 rating and fellow finalist Durbidge has moved to World No. 2 with the result. “There are murmurs of Bede being a world title contender and I would say he’s up to that challenge,” Slater said.
Durbidge was disappointed with the loss but his performance at Bells Beach has positioned him as a clear contender. “It’s pretty frustrating, but he’s the champ and freakish things happen to him,” Durbidge said of Slater. “I saw him paddle up to Rincon and I just let him go. He just got one and went pretty freakish, did a big air, rode it all the way through and got the score.”
Durbidge’s final berth today was the fourth of his four-year career. He finished World No. 5 last year after winning the last event of the year in Hawaii and started 2008 with a semifinal showing. “I’ve just been getting through heats and I’ve been going all the way to the end so it’s been going pretty good for me,” Durbidge said. Durbidge eliminated California’s Bobby Martinez (USA) in a one sided semifinal affair today.
“I would have liked to keep on going but Bede stopped me in my tracks, Martinez said. “He deserved it he’s surfing good. I kind of got wave starved and was never really in it. If you are not on the good waves you’ve got a good chance of losing just because everyone surfs so good. Like I’ve said over and over again, anyone can beat anybody.”
Martinez has moved to World No. 8 after bettering his 17th place finish on the Gold Coast of Australia. “It didn’t start for me so good here, I’m glad it ended alright,” Martinez said. “It’s a Catch 22, because you are so close to where you want to be but at the same time, you failed. You’re happy but at the same time you are a little bummed out.”
Taj Burrow (AUS) was also bummed out after his semifinal loss to Slater. “It was pretty frustrating to lose like that,” Burrow said. “I just couldn’t get a wave, it was really choppy out there. It was pretty hard to pick a wave, I don’t even know if there were any decent ones out there. Kelly had the right approach taking a lot of waves and maybe one of them would form together but I was trying to wait for that one and I couldn’t really find a clean face.”
Burrow was runner-up to the World Title in 2007 and hopes to be a contender this year too. “Third is a keeper for sure,” Burrow said. “I was hoping to make a bit more ground on the guys at the top but I am stoked to be there mixing it up with them. It’s just all about the next one.”
Dane Reynolds (USA) fell to Burrow in the Quarterfinals but still leaves the event with his best result in an ASP World Tour event. Sitting equal 11th, Reynolds is the highest rated rookie on tour and his performance in the Rip Curl Pro did not go unnoticed.
“I think Dane might arguably the best surfer in the world right now,” Slater said. Just everything from barrels to airs to carves, he’s really got the whole bag of tricks and power and everything. He’s so well rounded, and I think that’s got us all pretty fired up.”
The next event on ASP World Tour will take place in Teahupoo, Tahiti from May 8-18, 2008.