JOHANNA BEACH, Victoria/Australia - Kelly Slater (USA), 38, former nine-time ASP World Champion, has claimed his fourth Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach presented by SNICKERS title over reigning two-time ASP World Champion Mick Fanning (AUS), 28, in clean three-to-four foot (1 metre) waves at the backup venue of Johanna Beach.
The second stop on the 2010 ASP World Tour, the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach was completed over four different venues this year, with Round 1 at Bells Beach, Round 2 at Thirteenth Beach, Round 3 and the opening half of Round 4 at Winkipop before the final day was completed at Johanna Beach.
Following a relatively slow start to the highly-anticipated Final, Fanning unleashed with a 7.17 to take the lead. The lightning-fast Australian strung together a series of high-speed maneuvers to pull ahead and put the Floridian on the ropes.
However, Slater would answer back with an incredible Alley-oop aerial maneuver, boosting so high his feet separated from his board before he recovered for an 8.93. Slater then paddled out into another excellent wave, scoring an 8.10 to bring his total to 17.03 out of a possible 20 . a lead that Fanning would not surpass.
"It was a lot more difficult than it looked out there," Slater said. "The tide came up and the takeoff was a lot deeper than we thought it would be. I was getting bumped and bounced and falling, and I had five or six waves before I got something going. On that 8.93, I was up in the air and when I landed, I kind of fell on my butt and did the one-footed shuffle, but I recovered there. Then I paddled straight into that second wave and that was it."
Despite suffering a hairline fracture in his right foot three days ago, Slater was able to push himself to a record 42nd elite tour victory, and today's win marks his fourth at Bells Beach, matching the historic record set by legendary Australian Mark Richards in the 1970s.
"I'm really excited because I remembered that before this contest I promised myself that if I won, I would give to trophy to the Wathaurong (local aboriginal tribe) people," Slater said. "I didn't remember that until I was out in the water and right when I did, those waves came. So before I give it to them, I want to pass the trophy around for everyone to give a ring because that's never been done before."
Today's win sees Slater vault from 9th to 2nd on the elite ASP World Tour rankings, setting up his campaign for an unprecedented 10th ASP World Title.
"It's a long year but I'm excited to put up a result here," Slater said. "I felt like I was surfing well on the Gold Coast but didn't get the result I was looking for. So to come here and back it up is a step in the right direction."
Fanning's Runner-Up finish is a welcome result compared to his season opener on the Gold Coast where he finished Equal 9th. Despite the disappointment of not ringing the bell this season, Fanning now sits at ASP World No. 5 and is in an excellent position to defend his ASP World Title.
"A Runner-Up finish is great but I would have loved to win," Fanning said. "I couldn't seem to find a rhythm out there and Kelly (Slater) can do anything, even when he's injured. Still though, it was a great finish for the event and I want to thank all the locals down in Johanna for letting us surf out here today."
Photo credit : ASP / CESTARI / KIRSTIN