Eight-time ASP World Champion Kelly Slater (USA) is once again World No. 1 after beating Reigning ASP World Champion Mick Fanning (AUS) at his home break of Snapper Rocks.
Slater defeated Fanning 17.94 to 15.23 to claim his second Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast title and position himself atop the ratings for the first time since claiming his last ASP World Crown in 2006.
“It’s really satisfying,” Slater said. “I didn’t feel like I really got into motion last year. Obviously Trestles was good with a win, but the end of the year was pretty lackluster for me. Even getting into the Quarters today I was thinking, ‘This is the best result I’ve had in six months’ It just felt great.”
Slater and Fanning have now met in ASP competition nine times; Slater leads the exchange 5 to 4. Notably, previous to his win today, Slater had not beat Fanning since 2003. Both surfers have now won the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast twice – Fanning in 2005 and 2007 and Slater in 2006 and 2008.
“Mick is definitely the best competitor in the world right now,” Slater said. “He makes very few mistakes and surfs the face of the wave real well time and again. He’s one of those rare guys who can come from behind or take control from the front and pull out the big manoeuvres to get the big scores when he needs to.”
Compliments aside, Slater had no reservations about beating the Reigning and ASP and Quiksilver Pro Champion at home in front of a capacity crowd.
“Feel bad about beating Mick at home? Not in the least,” Slater said. “He’s won this event twice, I had to catch up.”
Slater has hinted that he will compete on the 2008 ASP World Tour selectively and has gone so far as to say he won’t surf the next event in Bells Beach. He made similar statements in early 2006, but after winning the Quiksilver Pro at Snapper, decided to go to Bells anyway. He won the ASP World Title for the eighth time that year.
“Yea, I was in the same position back in 2006 and didn’t decide on Bells until two days before,” Slater said. “The one thing that got me over the edge was the swell forecast and the fact that I was in Australia at the time. I was sort of at a low point personally with a lot of things and the event sort of kept my mind off it for a week or two while I was there – it kind of got me in the swing of things for the year and I was coming off a lot of confidence from the year before, so the wins where coming easy in heats. I seemed to be making the right choices in the water and riding that wave of confidence from the year before.”
Slater’s wins didn’t come easily today. He had to beat 3X ASP World Champion Andy Irons (HAW) in the Quarters and 2007 Rookie of the Year Jeremy Flores (FRA) in the Semis prior to his heat with Fanning today.
“I’ve never get to surf against Andy (Irons) until the finals and we haven’t surfed against each other in a two man heat in about two and a half years,” Slater said. “In that heat against Jeremy (Flores) I had very little energy and I really had to push it on my one big score. It’s good to win a contest, but to beat the top guys to get there is even better.”
Fanning, who took the World No. 1 spot with a win at this event last year, had not relinquished the top spot until today. He had the highest scoring wave of the Final heat – a 9.33 – but needed to back it up with an 8.61 he never found.
“I wanted another wave to come through and unfortunately for me it didn’t happen but Kelly surfed amazing all event and he’s the greatest surfer of all time,” Fanning said. “I was just praying for another wave but it didn’t come.
Fanning had to beat an in-form Bede Durbidge (AUS) and Dean Morrison (AUS) prior in the day to earn his Final berth this afternoon.
“I didn’t know exactly how I was going to go in this event, but I felt really relaxed the whole event and did things when I needed to,” Fanning said. “I just needed one more little wave to pop up but it didn’t happen.”
Fanning’s Semifinal clash against Durbidge was a repeat of last year’s event Final which Fanning won.
“It’s crazy that we met here again,” Durbidge said. “I wanted to get him so bad, but he’s just been surfing so well and he was the better man out there. It’s still a good start to the year though. I wanted to put myself up amongst the top contenders and up there on the ratings.”
Durbidge, who is now rated equal 3rd behind Slater and Fanning, won the last event of the 2007 ASP World Tour in Hawaii and finished the season World No. 5. He was hoping to better his 2007 Quiksilver Pro result and win at Snapper Rocks, but failed to find the 8.73 he needed to change the situation. The 8.50 he did manage with minutes to go was close, but not close enough.
“I’m a little bit disappointed, but it was a good heat that came down to the wire and Mick just got me in the end,” Durbidge said. “It was so close it was frustrating, but it was tricky and a little bit smaller and I tried my hardest and just didn’t come through.”
Jeremy Flores (FRA) also finished equal 3rd today. Despite opening the heat strong and pressuring Slater to find a combination of two excellent scoring rides to beat him, Flores eventually lost the heat 15.47 to 15.17.
“It’s a great result for me in the first event,” Flores said. The heat was pretty close but I think I could have surfed better. I didn’t really open up my surfing too much in this competition, I could have surfed a whole lot better, but I’m happy with my result and losing to Kelly in the Semifinal is not too bad.”
The next event on the 2008 ASP World Tour will take place in Bells Beach Australia from March 18-29, 2008.