Kai Otton Wins Rip Curl Pro

All Photos: Steve Sherman

We’ll forgive you if you didn’t see that one coming. In overhead lumps at Supertubos, Kai Otton — at the ripe age of 33 years old — won his first ever WCT contest. Mick Fanning fell half a point shy of his third world title, Wilko made a case for requalification and nobody landed a 10-foot alley-oop. It was a long and foreign song; here’s how it was sung.

A nippy morning in Peniche set the scene for Round 4. It was a non-elimination round, so competitors were pardoned if their limbs were still too stiff to triumph. Any and all educated eyes stared at Mick Fanning in the second heat. He was assigned the task of beating Matt Wilkinson and John John Florence, and he just barely did so. Julian Wilson, CJ Hobgood and Nat Young won the other three heats and that foursome made up half of your quarterfinalists. For the other half, we dug into to Round 5.

Josh Kerr posted the days highest heat total with a pair of 9+ rides in his roast of Taj Burrow. He earned ‘em for barrel to turn combos and they’re worth viewing on Heats On Demand only if you’re immensely bored. Jordy Smith snuck a few on Miguel Pupo for the win and Parko tossed Matt Wilkinson to the curb. Most importantly, however, Kai Otton beat John John Florence and the Ottz train came alive. Mick Fanning sat cross-legged at the locomotive’s next stop.

The world championship trophy and a chilled bottle of champagne sat side by side for the quarters. Parko slid past Julian Wilson in the first heat by a margin of .17. Then along came consequence as Mick and Ottz paddled out for heat 2. If Mick won, the title would consequently become his. If Ottz won, he’d get the warmest hug from Kelly Slater and the race would go to Pipe. After a back and forth snoozer, Kai had Mick on the ropes. A wave surfaced with 30 seconds left and Mick only needed a 4.68. Kai had priority and could have lobbed the golden opportunity to his bud. Instead, like Cal Naughton Jr. revolting against Ricky Bobby, Kai caught the wave and meandered through a few turns. The hug from Kelly was so warm.

A plume of black smoke smothered Peniche as the Ottz train moved full steam ahead towards the semifinals. Parko was stopped dead in his tracks when he wasn’t able to back up an 8.50 to beat conductor Kai. In heat two, Nat Young unleashed that rookie fervor yet again and Josh Kerr knew exactly what hit him. It was a 5’11” towheaded kid from Santa Cruz with legs like a large rhinoceros. Nat was officially deemed Rookie of the Year and readied himself for to his second final of 2013.

By this time, the Ottz train was going haywire. Nat, so cool and collected, tried to rectify the situation but came up short. His 11.03 points proved to be inadequate against Ottz’s 12.23. And when the final horn blew in Peniche, Kai came to. It had been like one of those scenes in a movie where a character experiences a bout of temporary psychosis, blacking out and raging through a fit of destruction. Kai finally snapped out of it and thought, “What have I done?” A crowd had gathered around him. Kai was anxious, but then he realized something. They were all chanting his name. —Brendan Buckley

In conclusion:

—Kai Otton won the Rip Curl Pro
—Nat Young won 2013 Rookie of the Year
—Matt Wilkinson leapfrogged into a qualifying spot for the 2014 tour
—In order for Kelly Slater to win the world title, he must win the Pipeline Masters and Mick Fanning must place worse than 3rd