Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast Final Day: Why?

posted by / News / March 9, 2011

10.1x world champion Kelly Slater ducks down for a familiar view. Photo: ASP

 

“If I’m in a contest, I wanna win,” replies a deadpan Kelly Slater, when asked what he’s aiming to get from competing at this stage of his career. Moments before he’d been chaired from the water after beating Taj Burrow in an anti-climactic final at the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast. As he got close to the podium, he threw a flurry of high-fives to supporters then laid backwards into the crowd.

While winning is at the core of Kelly’s motivation, his 46th tour victory and third in Coolangatta (he’s won the Billabong Pro Kirra twice and claimed the Quik Pro title in 2008), will occupy a different place in his mind.

“I’m trying to get to a place where I’m focused but I’m not stressed out by it. I don’t really enjoy the stress of the contest. I put pressure on myself. In the break [competition was suspended for four hours over high tide] I put a lot of pressure on myself and I didn’t realize it. When I was driving back I wanted to loosen up a little bit. I like to try to get to a place where I can compete relaxed,” he said, adding, “It’s about performance [and] performing well all the time. If you can do that, you compete well. [My goal] is to make the idea of competing secondary. I’m not that fired up to go beat people but I like to win heats if I’m out there.”

Until he walked out for the final, Kelly had joked with beach marshals, various personalities in the competitors’ area and even his opponent Taj Burrow, whom he shared a quick hug with before paddling out.

 

The final was lackluster. The tide ran out and the swell swung too far east, creating vicious wedges that ran into nothing. Kelly won with two fives, while Taj had an opportunity to steal victory at the death when he blew the fins out of a runner and aimed at a punt section only to meekly tap the section and finish with a floater. He fell 1.03 points short of the champ.

Following the heat, Taj walked briskly through the media area and the post-final awards ceremony had to be held up while they searched for the West Australian backstage in the competitors’ area.

 

Kelly’s passage to the final was easy. He destroyed Dusty Payne in the quarterfinals — though with conditions at a premium for the heat, and the women’s final the day prior providing some of the most entertaining surfing of the event, expectations were high for Slater and Dusty. When almost 13 minutes elapsed with just a single wave ridden despite a series of rippable nuggets running along the inside, Coolangatta local and commentator Bruce Lee willed the surfers to catch more waves while his co-commentator, Sean Doherty made the observation many surfers would “give their left arm” to surf the inside runners. Following the heat, Kelly bristled when asked whether, in light of the girl’s action the day earlier, the men should shelve their professionalism and catch more waves for the sake of the spectacle.

“Well, how are you gonna catch more waves when they are not coming?”

“Well, I dunno, I thought there were heaps of little grinders running down the bank,” I replied.

“Yeah, but they’re way down here you know. We can’t see those waves from where we’re sitting. I mean, it’s not like we’re sitting out there trying not to catch waves. I mean, especially Dusty, he caught four waves in a half an hour.”

“Yeah, I s’pose so. I thought it was kind of a conservative approach,” I finished, but Kelly had already begun to make his exit mid-sentence. Which was fair enough. He was yet to surf his semi-final and it wasn’t the time to be engaging in debate (and I wouldn’t have, but I feared Kelly might lose in the semi or final and not offer a post heat interview, as happens regularly on the World Tour).
Dusty’s exit was soon followed by the rest of the Quik Pro breakthrough performers: Brett Simpson, Matt Wilkinson and Brazilian rookie Alejo Muniz, were all gone by the end of the quarterfinals, with the Brazilian losing in circumstances that were too much for his girlfriend to bear.

Holding a lead of 7.57 with five seconds left, Alejo’s opponent and world No. 2 Jordy Smith grabbed a mid-sized runner, throwing a series of prog-moves to score a 7.7 for the win in near identical circumstances to his defeat of Joel Parkinson a day earlier. The scores were announced after the siren and Alejo’s girlfriend (or possibly his sister) broke down in the competitors’ area, with Brazilian World Tour surfers, Raoni Monteiro and Heitor Alves left to console her. For Jordy, it was the fourth time since the Billabong Pro J-Bay last year he’d snatched victory on his final wave (Trestles, Portugal and yesterday at the Quik Pro being the others).

“After J-Bay and that situation with Bede [where he defeated the Australian on the final wave], that turned everything around for me. Before that I was like, ‘Ah, screw this,’ [when I was behind near the finish]. Now I just go until the end,” said Jordy.

Breakthrough performer Brett Simpson, who acquired the best result of his career before losing to Taj in the quarterfinals, put his elimination down to inexperience.

“It’s our first time so we probably got a little excited already and felt like we’d had a great result and maybe let our foot off the gas pedal a bit. You can’t afford to do that against these top guys who can smell blood,” he said.

For Brett, the result answered the heavy criticism he’d received during his rookie year from some unlikely sources. Former coach Ian “Kanga” Cairns gave the Huntington Beach local a pasting in Surfline.com’s controversial Power Rankings, and Brett admitted to taking the criticism “personally.”

“I’ve worked with Ian and he says what he believes. Yeah, I took it personally. You see people getting pissed off but when you become a professional you try to balance that and show ‘em, ‘Nah, I can do it.’ We’re still friends and we talk but I haven’t worked with him [this year],” he said, adding, “I came into this event with not a lot of confidence. My back was sore and there were some other things going on. I met with [sports physio] Chris Prosser and he told me, ‘Just go and be excited. You’re worried, you’re stressed out. That will [cause back pain].’”

In what will firm Kelly’s chances of an 11th world title, Brett outlined what he believes is a further slant toward variety of repertoire by the ASP judges.

“The judges aren’t like, ‘It’s not a perfect wave, so you can’t give him the score.’ Jordy ripped the crap out of his [7.5 against Parko] and he deserved it. If the wave allows you to go carve, tail slide, air and you do four cutties, you could get a six but you could get a nine if you mix it up. It’s definitely a new criteria.”

 

With the World Tour headed into the unchartered and dubious terrain of Rio De Janeiro and Long Beach, New York, a cryptic statement by Kelly revealed that the promise of an 11th world title might not be enough to keep him here.

“I love the wave here and it’s special to make it that far and surf that many heats with only two guys out, really. That sort of means more to me now,” he said, but changed tack before finishing the sentence.

“I mean, when I look back on it when I’m older, I will probably be stoked and just happy to, you know, have a finish and surf in the final. At that point, I didn’t really care if it was a second. I was just going to give it what I got.” —Jed Smith

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  • Ke11y Slayter

    Jed,

    You stick to reporting on the afterparties and I’ll take care of this surfing stuff. There is a reason you hold a pencil in hand and I surf heats for a living. Don’t forget that.

    Best Friends Forever,
    Kells

  • Nicole 4 Ever

    Kelly stopped competing against other surfers a long time ago. I don’t think anyone really knows his true motivation(s) for continuing to compete (and why would he completely reveal anything?) I suppose that an element of it is that he is competing against the likes of Jordan, Phelps, Federer, Armstrong or whoever else you think should be included in the running, for Best Athlete Ever- (…mainstream media might never give a surfer a fair shot at this title. It’s too hard to relate.) Another factor is that unlike say five years ago, the world tour is a very progressive arena and Kelly wants to be in that conversation. There used to be a divide, with many pontificating that way better surfing was going down outside of contests. As it is now (well maybe in a couple months), Dane lays down turns in contests that are far and away some of the best shit he has ever done (j-bay hack, trestles rotator, Puerto rico, brazil backhand method.)And the combos that I see from Jordy and Owen are mental as well. So why wouldn’t Kelly still want to be on tour? You can chase waves between events and can do it with relative ease being Slater. I’m stoked for the dude, he’s killing it. Maybe lay off the ally oops; they’re kinda like jordy always going for the supers. Having said that, that massive front hand grab one that he almost pulled in the contest, would’ve been nuts. That is the whole event in a nutshell: the shit that almost went down.

  • dude

    Just who is Nicole 4 Ever ? Might have to give him a job.

  • just another message board troll

    Thanks for breaking it down Nicole. Your like that annoying little prick in high school that thinks they know everything. People need to stop trying to get in Slaters head and figure it all out. Think about it, he has done this since he was able to do anything. He has never had a part time job at dairy queen, he has never had to fight for the attention or affection of a female, he doesnt live in or exist in our normal boundaries of reality. Nobody,not even Jordan or Phelps, can relate to dominating and re-arranging a sport completely the way Jimmy Slade has done with wave riding. He wants to surf against the best, he wants to remain relevant, in my opinion its all bullshit. Slater does what he does because he might not know any other way to live his life. Retiring and enjoying it and the company of family and friends full time is probably something that scares the shit out of Kelly, and as surfing fans we should all be thankful for that.

  • Will

    Before this event I was pretty into the idea of Dane leaving the tour, just to send a message or something, but God I miss watching him. I’m so much less drawn to the webcast, knowing that his heat’s not going to come on soon. I actually kind of thought Alejo was filling Dane’s shows, or trying to at least. Didn’t see his last heat, but in his round three I think it was, I was impressed with his try-anything-once attitude.

  • just another message board troll

    Alejo had a great run and is a phenomenal surfer! It was inspiring to see him step up to the plate and handle the pressure of beating two of the best snapper surfers in one heat (Taj and Joel) Nonetheless, comparing him to Dane or saying he “kind of filled his shoes” is just silly. Their surfing isn’t even in the same stratosphere, and although Alejo could, and probably will, beat Dane in a heat- he will never be half the surfer Dane is (not many humans breathing right now ever will be either, so dont feel bad A.M.)

  • katu acara

    Thank you Guy you are hard work to be champion.
    I loved all you did surfed well.
    Bravo surf…

  • Steve Shearer

    Good shitt Jed.

    Sick times.