Mick Fanning (AUS) has set the pace for the 2007 Foster's ASP World Tour today, winning the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast presented by Samsung at his home break of Snapper Rocks for the second time in three years.
Beating fellow local and unsponsored surfer Bede Durbidge (AUS) in barrelling five to six foot (one and a half to two metre) Snapper Rocks waves, Fanning slotted himself into a series of deep barrels and executed some of his patented searing turns to emerge from the water victorious much to the delight of the 10,000 plus strong crowd.
Crowd favorite Fanning, as expected, was elated with his form: "To win here in front of everyone is a dream come true," Fanning said. "I'm just ecstatic. And to surf with Bede in the finals he's been ripping and he's always been an amazing surfer. He is surfing this year without a sponsor so I've been saying to industry people, 'You should pick him up because he is going to do some damage this year,' and then out he comes and makes the final."
Fanning can now claim to be the first to have scored two Quiksilver Pro victories and in front of his fellow Snapper Rocks buddies, 2002 and 2003 winners Joel Parkinson (AUS) and Dean Morrison (AUS) (who are known affectionately as the 'Coolangatta Kids') he can stand up and be counted as being one of the best to surf the world class wave.
"I'm so pumped, it was always going to be a race of the boys as to who was going to get two," said Fanning. "What better way to start the year than in perfect Snapper and surfing with a mate. Just to win at home, it's awesome."
His win today, his seventh Foster's ASP World Tour victory, has thrust Fanning into pole position to go after his maiden world title. Fanning finished the 2005 and 2006 seasons in 3rd place and won events in Jeffreys Bay and Brazil in last year.
"I made three out of six finals in the second half of last year," Fanning said. "I was pretty confident in my surfing and I just tried to roll that into this year. I stayed really relaxed the whole time and it paid dividends here in this event. Even when I was in bad situations I just felt the waves were coming and yeah, it's just a great day."
Fanning won the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast for the first time in 2005 an amazing feat citing it was his first event back after at horrific hamstring injury which sidelined him for months.
"I think this second win at Snapper is a little bit different," Fanning said. "Last time I was in this position (on top of the ratings after the first event) I had just come back from a big injury it was a huge relief but this year I'm more focused and I really believe that I can take the world title. Plus I'm just enjoying it a lot more."
Durbidge upset top seeded surfers Kelly Slater (USA) and Joel Parkinson (AUS) to find himself in the event final his second since he landed on tour in 2005
Durbidge posted his first Foster's ASP World Tour win at Trestles in California last year: "It was great to make the final," Durbidge said. "It would have been a little bit sweeter if I had got first though. That was probably the worst heat I have had the whole event. I just didn't come out of a few barrels that I wanted to make; it would have been a bit different if I had made them. It's an awesome way to start though and I'm looking forward to the next event."
Durbidge's semifinal match-up with the reigning world champ was the stuff surf fantasies are made of. Durbidge opened the heat strong with two massive scores, leaving Slater needing a combination of excellent scoring rides to emerge from the heat alive. Fighting his way back the way only an eight-time world champ can, Slater notched up the scores he needed and took the lead but last minute heroics by Durbidge changed the situation once again.
"What do you do?" said Slater. "I did good to come back to get the lead and then that wave came. The waves were there to be had and he was just in better sync than me; he had the advantage with that 9.93. I didn't think that I was going to get back in there. You can't be bummed losing a heat like that. We both scored high, we both surfed well and he surfed better than me."
Slater leaves the Quiksilver Pro equal 3rd and, while happy with his result, is wary that the other semifinalists now have the upperhand. "You have to have semifinal finishes and better to get a title," Slater said. "The guys I¹m expecting to be there are Taj (Burrow) and Mick (Fanning). I'll match one of them (with this result) and the other guy will get more in the finals."
Also finishing equal 3rd was Burrow, last year's Quiksilver Pro runner-up. Burrow lost his semifinal heat to Fanning.
"I'm really disappointed, but it's still a really good result," Burrow said. "I was just feeling like I couldn't do anything right. Mick had that local knowledge where he was just getting the smaller ones because it was lower tide. I got a couple of bigger ones that looked sick when I pulled in, but they just pinched me. He was just getting those sick little drainers. He nailed it. I'm bummed, but whatever, I'll take a third."
En route to the final, Fanning came precariously close to losing his quarterfinal clash with Foster's ASP Rookie Josh Kerr (AUS). Kerr left Fanning needing a near-perfect heat score to advance. Fanning found it and beat Kerr 19.53 to 19.10 in easily one of the highest scoring heats in ASP history.
The Foster's ASP World Tour will now head south to the frigid waters of Bells Beach for the Rip Curl Pro, which will kick off April 3.
Final: Mick Fanning (AUS) def. 16.17 Bede Durbidge (AUS) 12.00
Semifinal Results: 1st advances to Final, 2nd is eliminated
Semifinal 1: Bede Durbidge (AUS) 19.40 def. Kelly Slater (USA) 18.73
Semifinal 2: Mick Fanning (AUS) 18.13 vs. Taj Burrow (AUS) 7.33
Quarterfinal Results: 1st advances to Semifinals, 2nd is eliminated
Quarterfinal 1: Bede Durbidge (AUS) 18.34 def. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 10.33
Quarterfinal 2: Kelly Slater (USA) 15.83 def. Michael Campbell (AUS) 13.57
Quarterfinal 3: Mick Fanning (AUS) 19.53 def. Josh Kerr (AUS) 19.10
Quarterfinal 4: Taj Burrow (AUS) 14.96 def. Ben Dunn (AUS) 11.00
Quiksilver Pro Round 4 Results: 1st advances to Quarterfinals, 2nd is eliminated
Heat 1: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 19.10 def. Bruce Irons (HAW) 7.83
Heat 2: Bede Durbidge (AUS) 11.67 def. Kai Otton (AUS) 7.33
Heat 3: Michael Campbell (AUS) 13.67 def. Taylor Knox (USA) 5.00
Heat 4: Kelly Slater (USA) 18.33 def. Greg Emslie (ZAF) 11.34
Heat 5: Mick Fanning (AUS) 13.50 def. Daniel Wills (AUS) 12.43
Heat 6: Josh Kerr (AUS) 9.16 def. Jeremy Flores (FRA) 7.67
Heat 7: Taj Burrow (AUS) 15.43 def. Travis Logie (ZAF) 12.50
Heat 8: Ben Dunn 10.77 (AUS) def. Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 8.17