Photo: 8X ASP World Champion Kelly Slater scored a 9.17 and 9.23 at Winkipop today.
Round 3 of the Rip Curl Pro presented by Snickers went mobile when event officials decided that the nearby break of Winkipop was offering higher scoring potential than the primary site of Bells Beach this afternoon.
Americans Dane Reynolds, C.J. Hobgood and Kelly Slater wasted no time illustrating that the move was a warranted one when they posted a series of excellent scores in the first two heats held at the back-up venue.
Reynolds, a rookie, matched his event-high heat total of 18.73 out of 20.00 by earning a near-perfect 9.90 and high eights in Heat 12 against 2001 ASP World Champion C.J. Hobgood. The former world champ lost despite posting a 9.70 wave score of his own –the third highest single wave score of the event behind Reynolds’ 9.90 and 9.73.
“That was a really fun heat,” Reynolds said. “I didn’t even care who won, we were having a great time just trading off waves. It was so much more fun at this spot than at Bells. Bells is really hard to surf and wonky and weird and this is just the perfect little wave. It was fun that it really just came down to surfing.”
Slater who shared similar sentiments about the move this afternoon, beat Jihad Khodr (BRA) when he logged 9.17 and 9.23 wave scores to best the Brazilian 18.40 to 12.50.
“I’d say that nine days out of 10, the waves are better over at Winki,” Slater said.”It’s just more surfable on the face and it stays steeper. It’s getting to be the full tide over at Bells and it’s pretty small. If it was six feet, it’d be one thing as the conditions are nice, but it’s pretty mushy.”
With a comfortable lead, Slater opted to share his aerial prowess with the fans as the clock ticked down – the daring moves were rewarded by the judges and his winning margin grew even wider.
“Once you get ahead in a heat and the other guy needs a combination of scores to beat you, you can play around a little bit,” Slater said. “Jihad got one or two sets that really didn’t do anything for him and you do the numbers and can assume there won’t be too many more sets. That’s when you can play around and perform, that’s kind of what we’re here for.”
Slater will meet Damien Hobgood in the next round and could meet fellow performer Reynolds in the quarterfinals if they both make their Round 4 heats.
“I think Dane (Reynolds) has really put a call out to everyone this year that good surfing stands,” Slater said. “If you’re going to play conservative, he’s going to eat you up in pretty much every aspect.”
Reigning ASP World Champion Mick Fanning (AUS) beat wildcard and former Top 45 surfer Troy Brooks (AUS) at Bells Beach proper this morning. Fanning went for broke on the last wave of the heat and was rewarded with a 9.17 and Round 4 berth.
“Yeah, Brooko (Troy Brooks) didn’t want that last wave and I just thought there might not be any others after that so I just went for it,” Fanning said. “I just got lucky. I got a couple of sections so I was stoked.”
Former event winners Taj Burrow (AUS), Joel Parkinson (AUS) and Andy Irons (HAW) are also through to Round 4. Burrow and Parkinson earned their berths surfing at Bells Beach earlier today, while Irons is through after winning at WInkipop.
“I think it was a good decision to move today,” Irons said. “The waves down at Bells weren’t really offering a lot of scoring potential this afternoon and we saw heats like Kelly’s and Dane’s where they got lots of good scores. There wasn’t a lot on offer for the last few heats, but I’m stoked I got a few scores at the beginning.”
Irons is slated to meet Kai Otton (AUS) in the last heat of Round 4.
There is one full day of competition remaining and four more days in which to run it. Another call on competition status will be made tomorrow morning at 7:30.
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