THE 2003 BILLABONG PRO TEAHUPO’O DAY NINE

posted by / News / May 13, 2003

Surf: 4 feet and clean
Events held: Men’s Round 3
Nature’s call: Good, eh?
Predicted: 8-foot (really)
It was around 10:00 AM when six-time world champion, Kelly Slater, slipped on his bright red contest vest. Many of the other competitors were on hand to see what he would do. Kelly was up against Richie Lovett, a fine Australian with a knack for style. Which was well fitting because Kelly’s known for beating them with just as much. The heat had a slow start with Richie heading deep only to catch a closeout. This gave the event emcees, Mike Parsons and Brad Gerlach, ample time to help out.”Well, looks like we have another question from the Internet, Brad,” said Parsons.”It says, ‘What does it mean when a surfer has priority?’””Right now, Kelly has priority because Richie went on that last wave–and that means he has the first pick of the next set of waves,” answered Gerlach authoritatively. In other words, it gives you control of the heat. The surfer with first priority can use it as a weapon to starve the other guy until he can find a winning wave. Slater has never been one of those kinds of guys. Before the Gerr’s voice could fade, there he was, paddling into a bogus wave. Twenty seconds later he whipped out of that bogus wave for an 8.9. Replaying it in my mind, one thing became clear: If you can turn a crumbling burger into the same score guys are getting for stand up pits, you have no worry of being in tactical control. Because, really, when is the guy not?After he won the heat, Kelly disappeared for a while. In that time, plenty of hot surfing went down. There was Nathan Hedge with a come-from-behind perfect 10 to oust Shea Lopez with 35 seconds remaining. A heat that many of his peers immediately predicted unbeatable.”Best heat I’ve ever seen,” said Mick Lowe.

Hedge was speechless as he should have been. Then there was Andy Irons who finished off Tahitian wildcard, Hira Terintanofa, with a mindless display of brilliance. The local put in an admirable effort with many sleek shacks of his own, it’s just that Andy made it hard to tell who the real local was. His no-handed excellence, which garnered him a 10 of his own, was only surpassed by the well-worn humility he displayed after the victory.”You must be confident after that heat,” I said when he stayed around to watch the action like a stoked grommet.”Ahh, that was just that heat–I won’t know until the start of the next,” he answered.Back hidden in the mess of boats and bodies I noticed Kelly had shown back up. He was on to show caddy support for his friend, Pat O’Connell. The word is that Kelly’s been over-surfing his heats, if that’s even possible. They say he’s been going for 10s on every wave and that he’s been paying with some early losses. Then again, he probably wouldn’t have won his heat this morning had he not surfed that way. Successfully, his approach is by far the most critical of the bunch. He’s going for 10-point bottom turns. It’s disturbing when he keeps from falling. Today, going into the final day, he still looked a step ahead — even in the face of majestic perfect scores from the young guns. And, even as AI is oh-so-poised for gunning down a mirror double whammy from his stick-up last year, following another win at Bells. Could Kelly be feeling any of this?

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