Bede Durbidge & Kelly Slater : photo Robertson/ASP Covered Images
Accolades for Bede Durbidge from the world's best
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 27 March, 2008 : - - Multiple world champ Kelly Slater has endorsed rising Australian star Bede Durbidge as a legitimate contender for this year's global crown. 'There's been some murmurings about Bede being a contender this year and I think that is right,' said Slater after only narrowly defeating Durbidge in the final of the Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach yesterday.
While Slater has cleared out to an early ratings lead after winning both Australian events on the opening leg of the 2008 World Championship Tour, Durbidge has eased into a strong second place by virtue of his semi-final appearance in the Quiksilver Pro andrunner-up finish at Bells.
"Given Bede won the Pipeline Masters which was the last event of the 2007 tour, he now has a first, third and second from the last three contests," noted former world champion and current world tour boss Wayne "Rabbit" Bartholomew. "That's huge because it shows he's a contender in every contest now. Kelly is really only endorsing what a few of us have been saying about Bede for a little hile now.
"He has the guns to have a real shot at the world title this year and beyond." The 24-year-old Queenslander has now elbowed alongside long-time Australian world title contenders Taj Burrow and Joel Parkinson and current world champ Mick Fanning, third after two events, as Australia's best hope of keeping the prized crown.
Durbidge's strong development he has gone from 15th to 5th to his current second position in the past three years of his four-year WCT career also continues an unlikely feel-good story. Dubbed "The White Fijian" by his tour colleagues for his gentle demeanour, he competed most of last year without a sponsor, taking an extra mortgage on his Gold Coast home to fund himself around the world.
He opened the 2007 tour with a second to Fanning in the opening event with Slater, whom he beat in an epic semi-final, wondering aloud why the surfing industry wasn't supporting Durbidge despite his obvious talent. Former world No. 2 Gary "Kong" Elkerton, who has been helping train and c ch Durbidge, has a theory on that. "When Bede was with Billabong early in his career, they were top-heavy with WCT talent.
They had Taj, Joel and (three times world champ) Andy Irons and a lot of imagery and promotion was going on around those guys. "Like the other companies they also had their guys who they considered ready to step up in the next couple of years. Bede and guys like Jordy Smith and others were Billabong's. "But as the big companies have felt the economic pinch they've had to prune in those areas.
All the companies had to make choices. Some got it right, some got it wrong. They got it wrong with Bede. He's shown greater ability than people gave him credit for. As for his character....well, take a look at what he's actually achieving and how well he's surfing compared to some of the overpaid show-ponies further down the rankings."
Durbidge has since gained backing from a small mix of surf companies who admire his tenacity, character and talent. They include emerging American company Mada and his longest supporters, Mt Woodgee Surfboards on the Gold Coast, who have backed him since he was 12.
Durbidge reaped a great reward for his self-confidence by taking the Pipeline Masters and Hawaiian Triple Crown on a single day last November for a $US75,000 payday the biggest one-day haul in pro surfing history. "Sure, it wasn't easy at times last year before Hawaii but I've also thrived on the challenge," he says. "I do all my own organising for my travel and accommodation, rentals
all that sort of stuff.
But I like that. "It makes me prepare responsibly. And that's helped me in the water as well in terms of mental preparation. "The one thing I've never worried about is whether I'm getting my fair share of publicity, sponsorship and things like that. "I've always believed that if you put your head down, believe in yourself, work hard d achieve, the rest takes care of itself.
I don't waste energy on trying to make something happen any other way than by pure performance in the water." Slater, who had lost his previous two encounters to Durbidge before beating him at Bells, had to pull out one of the most remarkable performances of his stellar career to run down the Australian yesterday.
Durbidge led for most of the final until Slater took an incredible risk by paddling further down the beach from the Bowl to the Rincon break to look for a wave that would give him the lead. Incredibly, he found it, pulling off an explosive aerial manoeuvre to seal his 36th career title. The American superstar is now poised to chase his ninth world title. But over his shoulder is Durbidge and pack of riled Aussies in Fanning, Burrow and Parkinson. The remainder of the tour will be fascinating.
Team - Surfersvillage