The race for the Foster’s ASP Men’s World Tour title is hotting up as all contenders for the crown have progressed through to round four of the Billabong Pro Mundaka. In one-metre waves, Kelly Slater (USA), Andy Irons (HAW) and Taj Burrow (AUS) all won heats today to keep their stakes on the big prize alive.

Current ratings leader and seven-time world champion Slater surfed a very smart heat when he disposed of local wildcard Hodei Collazo (EUK) in the day’s first encounter. Slater looked to be in perfect position right throughout the heat and monopolised every set wave that pushed through the arena. Yet he feels he still has plenty of room for improvement.

"I don’t feel like I’m totally in sync with the waves yet," said Slater. "I felt like towards the end of that heat I was starting to open up a little more with my turns. I’m starting to feel a little more free every time I surf."

His opponent Collazzo did put up a valiant effort and with the vocal crowd pushing him all the way he showed that he certainly possesses the skills that could take him onto the world stage.

Collazzo was appreciative of the opportunity to surf against his hero: "I think it’s a really good experience for me," he said. "I’ve been watching him surf since I was really young. Surfing in these waves with Kelly Slater, who is a world champion, puts a lot of pressure on me, but I also learnt a lot from him."

Slater must now face Cory Lopez (USA) in round four. "I’m coming up against Cory Lopez in the next round and I’m hoping for some more open face waves," said Slater. "Cory can fit into those little barrels pretty good. He’s one of the best tube riders in the world."

Irons meanwhile had a very close encounter with his rival in Yuri Sodre (BRA). After grabbing a decent scoring ride, Sodre briefly went into the lead but Irons blasted a wave in the dying seconds to secure his victory.

“That was pretty sketchy," said Irons. “At the beginning I got a little laid back. I left the door wide open and he was at the gate for about 22 minutes or something, so it was definitely not one of my better heats. I didn’t know what he got on that last wave, as I wasn’t sure what he did, but I knew he went pretty far. I was definitely biting my nails out there."

Burrow looked dangerous in his heat against rookie Adrian Buchan (AUS). He only rode four waves in the heat, but managed to secure three great rides. He was worried however that there was always a possibility that the ocean could go flat and adapted his strategy to suit.

“I saw Jake (Paterson) lose the heat before due to only getting one ride," said Burrow. “So I thought it would be good to get a bit of a wave count up, at least build a little house with a couple of small scores. It was pretty scarce though."

Indeed, only two other heats were run today as once again the tide filled in the break and the waves began to dry up.

Heat six between Jake Paterson (AUS) and Phil MacDonald (AUS) was a completely one-sided affair as Paterson only rode one wave during the heat.

“The ocean just went flat," said winner MacDonald. “Jake and I sat out there and Jake couldn’t get a wave. I just fluffed around and got a 5.5 and a 4.83. I didn’t think they were going to be counters but in the end they were the two highest scores of the heat. It’s just one of those things, Mundaka turns on and then it turns off just as quick. It’s just Mother Nature."

The remaining heat of the day was between Trent Munro (AUS) and Shaun Cansdell with Munro running home with a win.

“I’ve been surfing with Shaun ever since he was a little kid," said Munro. “I wasn’t going to take him lightly. I was going to give it everything I’ve got and I’m sure he did the same. I owed him one from Trestles where he beat me so there you go Shauny!"

Munro now has the unenviable task of surfing against Andy Irons in round four. "I’ve been surfing against Andy for years, all through the junior ranks," said Munro. “He’s at the top of the world so to be up against him and giving him a good go, that’s where I’m at."

Organisers will meet again tomorrow at 9am to check conditions and will no doubt wait once again for the tide to become favourable. The www.surfline.com forecast indicates that while we perhaps won’t see huge swell over the next few days there potentially could be some very nice waves on which the event will be completed.

Stay tuned to www.aspworldtour.com and www.billabongpro.com for all the latest updates.

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