Kelly Slater wins Billabong Pro & takes the ratings lead
Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP)
2003 World Championship Tour (WCT)
12 - 24 October 2003
Slater Wins Final & Takes Ratings Lead
October 24, 2003 (Mundaka, Basque Country) Six-time world champion Kelly Slater (FL, USA) today won the Billabong Pro Mundaka and took poll position for this year´s world title race. The US$250,000 World Championship Tournament (WCT) commenced this morning with both semifinal bouts, and then moved immediately into the event´s pinnacle on the last day of its generous 13-day waiting period.
Windblown 4ft (1.3m) surf was on offer, but long lefthanders were still running along the epic sandbar.
Slater began the day by achieving his primary goal of overtaking reigning world champ Andy Irons´ (Kauai, Haw) ratings lead upon reaching the Billabong Pro Mundaka final. Then against West Australian Taj Burrow in the 30-minute decider, he surfed a patient match and steadily improved his standing, before nailing victory on his last ride for an 8.9 score.
With two previous WCT wins to his credit this season - both Billabong Pro´s (Tahiti & in South Africa) - the Floridian has now racked up 26 career titles and amassed the most prizemoney in pro surfing (US$968,755) so far. More importantly to him at this stage however, is the 180 points´ advantage he now holds.
"I´m feeling so good," began Slater. "I think Andy made a little prophecy at the beginning of the contest when he said I was going to win, so thank you Andy (laughs). This is great, as it puts me, Andy and Taj all right there together and I think it´s exciting for the tour, and each of us. I´m just stoked, as that final was big and puts me a few hundred points ahead. It´s an exciting time right now. Andy seemed like he was going to pull away from us all after the last event, but this one went perfectly our way.
"There wasn´t much in it," he continued, of the final itself. "Taj got a few, but they weren´t really high scoring waves. I knew I could find a good one if I waited. I´m glad it actually came when I had priority, which was great.
"Everyone seems really excited," he added, of the upcoming event in Brazil next week. "Sounds like there is going to be good waves, and music, and people in Brazil have so much spirit and are so excited about surfing and sports in general. Any event right now is going to be really crucial for the title and points race, so Brazil is just as important as Hawaii."
Burrow cemented his position as #3 on the ratings and moved closer to Irons with another runner-up placing. In a rematch of their Billabong Pro Teahupoo final in Tahiti this year, the 25-year-old took the lead at times, but never had control of Slater. Following his opponent´s last ride, he ultimately required a near-perfect 9.53 score as the siren sounded. Heading to Brazil now - where he last won a WCT in 2002 - the West Australian remains a major world title contender.
"It was definitely great to make the final, but yeah, it´s a little frustrating," acknowledged Burrow. "It was a close one, but he used his priority well at the end and got a big score. Pretty devastated as I thought I was going to get him, but stoked at the same time.
"I´ve had some good results in Brazil and I hope I get another one there," he added, of the next tournament. "I haven´t been to Florianopolis before, but I´ve heard it´s fun, so I´m looking forward to it."
Finishing equal third today in the Billabong Pro Mundaka were Australians Mick Fanning (Gold Coast) and Nathan Hedge (Narrabeen). Both received S$10,000 and more valuable ratings points.
Fanning - the current ratings #4 - faced Slater in what was a rematch from the quarterfinal in Japan earlier this year. Despite leading for most the clash, the Australian lost control following his opponent´s 8-point ride. He did manage to bridge the gap somewhat with his next 7.5 score, but ultimately required another 7.31 at conclusion and was forced to accept his fourth semifinal finish this season.
"I just didn´t get any good waves and I guess he got a couple," reasoned Fanning. "Mine sectioned here and there, so it didn´t really happen. Whoever got them was going to win, as is always the way in these events. I´m stoked with another semi though. Maybe not so happy right now (laughs), but I´m looking forward to Brazil and Hawaii and will hopefully make a final before the end of the year."
Hedge was pitted against Burrow in the second semifinal, and held a slender until the final 10-minutes. Never one to quite, ´Hog´ gave his last wave everything he could in the final seconds, but only posted a 6.5 when searching for a 7.1. Nonetheless, the 24-year-old secured his best result to date and moved from 29th into 19th position.
"I´m still happy, but a bit pissed off since Taj has beaten me three times this year and gone on to the finals," explained Hedge. "That´s eating me out a bit, but 3rd is the best I´ve gone on tour yet, so I´m happy about that. I was rated 29th and there are only three events to go, so I needed to pull my finger out and this should bump me up. Takes the pressure off for making the tour next year.
"We just had to deal with the conditions in this contest," he continued. "It wasn´t the Mundaka we would have loved to have seen, but that´s what surfing is about and I´m happy."
Competitors and ASP officials will now fly all the way to Florianopolis, Brazil, for the next WCT scheduled to commence in a few days - between October 27 & Nov 4.
The Billabong Pro Mundaka is co-sponsored by Fosters, Vans and Von Zipper and supported by Telefonica, BBK, the "Diputacion de Bizkaia", the "Gobierno Vasco", the city of Mundaka, the Mundaka Surf Taldea and EHSF (Federation of Surfing).
Billabong Pro Mundaka Final Results
1st Kelly Slater (USA) 16.63 - US$30,000
2nd Taj Burrow (Aus) 14.1 - US$16,000
(1st>Final; 2nd=3rd receives US$10,000)
SF1: Kelly Slater (USA) 14.8 def. Mick Fanning (Aus) 13.27
SF2: Taj Burrow (Aus) 13.1 def. Nathan Hedge (Aus) 12.5
Current Top 10 Ratings After Billabong Pro Mundaka - WCT #9/12
1. Kelly Slater (USA) 7,428
2. Andy Irons (Haw) 7,248
3. Taj Burrow (Aus) 7,020
4. Mick Fanning (Aus) 6,528
5. Joel Parkinson (Aus) 6,300
6. Kieren Perrow (Aus) 6,036
7. Taylor Knox (USA) 5,412
8. Mick Lowe (Aus) 5,388
9. Dean Morrison (Aus) 5,340
10. Daniel Wills (Aus) 5,112
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Wind chart Spain/Theyr
Billabong Pro Hotline: +34-94-68-76-942
# 1 : Mythical Mundaka all set for Billabong Pro WCT event
# 2 : Billabong Pro WCT set to commence Sunday at Mundaka
# 3 : One heat run on Day One, event postponed on Day Two.
# 4 : Andy Irons suffers shock elimination at the Billabong Pro
# 5 : Small or No waves postpone event on days four thru seven
# 6 : Billabong Pro Mundaka postponed again on Days 8 & 9
# 7 : Billabong Pro: competition resumes action again at Bakio
# 8 : Billabong Pro completes round two at Bakio beach break
# 9 : Billabong Pro Mundaka semifinalists decided in solid surf
Jesse Faen - ASP
WCT-Contests - Surfersvillage