How good was that?
The Kelly Show.
Fiji’s best wave is quite possibly the world’s best wave – at least if you know it like Slater does. The rest of us would spend our time eating reef and getting lime-juice massages but Kelly Slater just pushes and pushes and, combined with decades of knowledge of the same stretch of reef, that put him in the unbeatable realm yesterday at the Volcom Fiji Pro.
Like some honorary Fijian chief, Slater looked like he owned the rights to these reefs all event, punching through every heat like it was his divine right. But there were others showing hints of superhuman, too, so the whole event had a feeling of gradual crescendo. John Florence looked like some kind of mystic, feeling his way through shining tubes at both Restaurants and Cloudbreak. Jordy Smith looked like the Incredible Hulk in touch with his sensitive side as he mixed vertical lip demolition with soft-stroking on the inner thighs of Fiji’s finest, again both in the early rounds at Restaurants and later at the suitably chunky Couldbreak.
Jordy Smith – on a tear but torn to shreds by John Florence in the quarters. Photo:ASP?Kirstin
Parko was Parkissimo throughout the event. All that smoothness and arcing style let fly on giant open faces and tunnels of such length and baffling speed that for once with Parko, degree of difficulty could never be in doubt. Mick. Just sick. Frightening. A speed machine so fit and powerful he could dominate just because he wanted to. His sheer will even affected the ocean, forcing it to throw him winning waves during the final seconds of his quarter and semi.
So on the final day, with the cards shuffled into some kind of universe-ordained order, fate’s hand began to unfold. Jordy, so loose and free and casually victorious, was not the chosen one. John Florence was. Sebastian Zeitz – also loose and carefree and savagely skilled in tubes like this, was again, not a chosen one. He was a dead sea bass, battered over the head by the ultimate angler, Kelly Slater who first stunned him with a 10, then clubbed the life out of him moments later with ANOTHER perfect 10. It was a noble, quick and painless death for Sea Bass, as great a death as you could want when you’re an over-achieving rookie on tour. A mercy killing.
And let’s just for a moment and take in what was said. That’s two 10s in the same heat by Kelly Slater. Twenty points out of a total of twenty. A perfect heat. Did he really deserve them both? Well, go back to Volcom’s website and check the heat analyzer. As John Florence was heard to comment after watching Slater’s first 10-pointer against Zeitz: “I dunno. It looked more like a 20 to me.”
CJ Hobgood – a Cloudbreak hero, but just a little too human. Photo: ASP/Kirstin
CJHobgood was good, good, good all the way through the event. Everyone said he was a favourite to win because everyone says he’s one of the best in these waves and Cloudbreak is where he shines. It was all true, except he didn’t have magic. He was a human – the very best human – playing in a field of gods. I don’t know. I really like those Hobgoods, but I never saw the lightning bolt from above touching their performances, even when CJ saw off Josh Kerr in the quarters, and even throughout the semis which CJ dominated until the very last second. Heat scores said it all – winning with 5s and 6s. Not 10s, or 10s and 10s.
Fanning was all fitness and desire. Of course, there’s skill with sharp teeth, too. ASP/Kirstin
Step back quickly to the Joel vs Mick showdown in the quarter finals – a duel in the crown pitching childhood friends and rivals nose to nose. Joel dominated, Mick won.
Come the final it was touch and go. Mick’s ferocious bite looked like it could tear enough strips off Kelly to bring him down. That would have been unjust, considering Kelly’s mojo, but not unlikely. The final started with 9.2 from Mick on a runner. Slater replied with a show-stopper, a gaping subway sized tube in which he showed the world that he wasn’t just fixed on winning, he was entertaining, too. Arms wide, standing as tall as the scaffold tower, deep as anyone could go, he won hearts in an instant then got chopped by a ten-ton lip on exit. How does he survive these beatings? He took them throughout event, all of them in critical positions over sharp, shallow reef with unimaginable pressures per square inch forcing him down. He just pops up and paddles back out, then does it again.
The Slater and Fanning final started off heavy with Mick posting a 9.2 right away. Slater wished he’d gone on that wave and spent the rest of the final making up for it with better choices. Photo: ASP/Kirstin
That wall-poster tube was a 5.6 so Mick held the lead for a moment, but Slater was busy. He high-lined his way across a windy wall and soon found a ragged tube to drag his butt in. It sectioned ahead and cleaned up as it sucked like he knew it would. When he finally came out with the spit, even though it wasn’t on par with the best of his waves, he claimed it – not so much because it was a great wave or because he’d made a tube that most of us would remember for ever, but because he was duelling and he knew that wave was a leap into the lead. 8.83.
In the end it didn’t matter. He got an even better wave minutes later, again claiming it on exit, walking away with a 9.8. Mick answered back with a 6.7 but 6s don’t mean a thing and you could tell he knew it.
Slater forced that point home on his next wave – a clear 9.2, at least, or so we thought. Turned out it was 10. Anyone watching this event throughout would have been mildly baffled by that score. There were many 10s in Fiji, and all of them were clearly 10s. But not this one. Still, that’s how the judges called it. Best explanation I saw? Matt Warshaw on Twitter opined that the “10 is a make-up score for the standup tube opener [which clubbed him in the head], in my opinion. Fair enough.”
That’ll do it for me. Kelly was the best in the event by far. The universe was in order, and as the universe always does when you take a close look at it, filling us with absolute awe.
Slater now leads as the tour heads to Bali. Uh oh. Photo: ASP/Kirstin