Slater Sets the Pace Heading into the Business End of the Billabong Pro
Kelly Slater, professional surfing’s most decorated athlete, showed no signs of slowing down in Jeffreys Bay today. The eight-time ASP World Champion and current ratings leader blitzed in both his Round 3 and Round 4 Billabong Pro clashes.
Slater defeated Travis Logie 19.14 to 12.06 in Heat 8 of Round 3 before beating Tom Whitaker 18.03 to 10.67 in the last heat of the day.
“The waves just came in in that heat," Slater said. “Tom had a few good ones, but I ended up getting the one big long one with a lot of sections on it. I think I got about eight turns in and then got that little tube at the end. Sometimes you just will your way into certain things and believe it’s going to happen and it does."
Slater will now meet current World No. 4 Adriano de Souza in Quarterfinal 2.
“Adriano gets it done," Slater said. “He’s learned a lot over the past couple of years and he’s been impressive out here. He’s been really fast and throwing a lot of spray, and doing a lot of turns, so I’m definitely not going to underestimate him."
Slater’s closest competition, Joel Parkinson (AUS), relished a narrow victory over fellow Australian Kai Otton in the first heat of Round 4.
“Kai needed an 8.2, he got an 8.1 and he lost by .1," Parkinson said. “A win is a win. I think I was kind of lucky in a way, but it’s a good result for me. My goal was to lift a little; I felt like I had another notch in me and going into tomorrow everyone is going to be surfing really well."
Parkinson is currently rated World No. 2. With Slater still in Billabong Pro contention Parkinson knows he has to keep the pace. He will face World No. 3 Bede Durbidge (AUS) in Quarterfinal 1.
“You can’t really slack off at any point now because Kelly has got such a lead," Parkinson said. “I pretty much have to win all my heats so I’ll try that. I can’t really do anything about what he does, but hopefully come some point toward the end of the yea, I’m still there with a chance."
Defending Champion Taj Burrow (AUS) beat South African Royden Bryson in Round 3 and has yet to surf Round 4 – only heats one through four of that round were run today. Burrow will meet another South African in Jordy Smith in Heat 7 of Round 4.
“Jordy is a tough heat for sure," Burrow said. “He’s gotten better and better and he’s got the local crowd behind him and he knows this wave so it will be good."
Burrow beat Smith in the semifinals of the Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay in 2006 when Smith was surfing the event as a wildcard. As the sole South African remaining in the event, both Smith and the local crowd will be looking for revenge.
“I lost to Taj a couple of years ago, so hopefully we get the waves and we’ll see what happens," Smith said. “I’d love to get him back but Taj is surfing really, really well."
France’s Jeremy Flores will meet three-time ASP World Champion Andy Irons (HAW) in the last heat of Round 4. Both surfers escaped elimination by advancing out of Round 3 today.
“Andy is one of my favorite surfers and I’ve looked up to him since I was a little kid so having a heat with him is a pleasure," Flores said. “If I win I’ll be so happy, if I lose it will be kind of normal so I just have to do my best!"
Twenty heats of competition were run in the four to six foot (two metre) conditions on offer today. Only 11 heats of the Billabong Pro remain.
The first heat in the water when Round 4 resumes will be Heat 5 featuring reigning ASP World Champion Mick Fanning and Hawaiian Bruce Irons. A former winner at JBay, Fanning seems unfazed by his current 7th place rating and is instead concentrating on the second half of 2008.
“I’m surfing good," Fanning said. “I’ve just had one bad result this year, so that’s a good base for me for the rest of the tour and I really enjoy the second half of the year."