Kelly Slater

Tahitian wildcard Michel Bourez may have hindered Kelly Slater’s 2007 ASP World Title hopes by knocking him out of the Quiksilver Pro France last year, but he certainly helped the Floridian’s cause today.

Bourez beat ASP World No. 3 Bede Durbidge (AUS) – one of only two surfers factoring in whether or not Slater can clinch his ninth ASP World Title in France – by posting a near-perfect heat total today. Bourez opened the heat with a 9.80, backed it up with a 9.77 and left Durbidge searching for 19.57 points to swing the scenario his way.

“The heat was really good,” Bourez said. “There were a couple of really good rights and lefts out there but the rip was really strong and I needed to catch the first wave so that is what I did. I got that first left and I didn’t know it was a 9.80, I thought it was just an 8.00 and then I got that 9.77 after and Bede was combed so I’m stoked.”

Bourez is currently rated 14th on the ASP World Qualifying Series (WQS) – the top 15 competitors on that series qualify for the ASP World Tour at year’s end. Having eliminated an eight-time ASP World Champion in Slater at this event last year, and then outside hopefuls for the 2008 ASP World Title in Joel Parkinson (AUS) and Durbidge this week, Bourez certainly seems to have the skills to mix it up amongst the world’s best.

“It doesn’t feel too good to be interfering with the title because those guys are here to win and I’m just here to beat those guys,” Bourez said. “Hopefully I’ll be here to beat those guys next year. I’m just in this event to prove myself and surf good waves – we surf really small waves on the WQS so I’m stoked to have a heat like that.”

Slater is now two steps closer to ASP World Title No. 9 after today’s proceedings. The scenario coming into the event was such that should Slater win the event, with Durbidge bowing out before the Final and ASP World No. 2 Taj Burrow being eliminated before the Semifinals, he would win the 2008 title in France.

Durbidge is out and Slater is into Round 4 after winning a tough heat over wildcard Joan Duru (FRA). Duru had the heat lead until Slater found two 8.00s late in the heat – he admitted that he has been slightly rattled by being so close to clinching ASP World Title No. 9 and that his surfing in France is not what it has been in earlier events this year.

“That heat, even though I had a couple good scores, was under what my average has been all year,” Slater said. “There hasn’t been a stellar performance by me yet but I guess the good news is that it can only get better.”

Slater could potentially win the title tomorrow, but he knows that winning the event and watching Burrow lose in Round 4 or the Quarterfinals are both best-case scenarios.

“I’d like to do it here but I don’t expect that is going to happen,” Slater said. “Taj looks good.”

Burrow beat injury replacement wildcard Gabe Kling (USA) in Round 3 today. With the ASP World Title so close to being a done deal, Burrow has his eyes on a different title – winner of the Quiksilver Pro France.

“The title is pretty much decided so I’m just looking to win events,” Burrow said. “I’ve come close to winning a couple of events this year, so I would like to take this one out – that’s all I’m really thinking about, not really the points situation. It is cool to be sitting second and keeping Kelly on his toes.”

Burrow will have to get by high-flying rookie Dane Reynolds (USA) first. Reynolds beat fellow 2008 Dream Tour rookie Jordy Smith (ZAF) in an exciting aerial affair today. The first 20-minutes of the heat were ultra-exciting, unfortunately, when the waves went flat two-thirds of the way through the heat, Smith still needed a combination of scores to beat Reynolds.

“I had fun,” Reynolds said. “It’s kind of a shame it turned out like that in the end. We didn’t have waves for the last 10 minutes. It doesn’t take much for him to get a score, well… he was combed, but he could have gotten a 9.00 and then a 7.00. He could have gotten that easily but the heat didn’t come around for him.”

Reynolds has now beat Smith twice in ASP World Tour competition, winning their heat in Tahiti earlier this year.

“It’s sort of a fluke I think because I definitely look at him and see him doing things I couldn’t dream of doing,” Reynolds said. “But with contests that’s just the way it goes sometimes, it’s definitely junky and rippy and funny out there, it just went my way. I’ll be nervous when I meet him again for sure.”

Chances are excellent the Quiksilver Pro France will wrap up tomorrow. An official decision will be made at 8am local time.

Watch it all LIVE on www.aspworldtour.com and www.quiksilverlive.com

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Round 3 Quiksilver Pro France Results:
Heat 1: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 13.17 def. Travis Logie (ZAF) 10.50
Heat 2: Dayyan Neve (AUS) 10.83 def. Heitor Alves (BRA) 8.50
Heat 3: Ben Dunn (AUS) 14.00 def. Chris Ward (USA) 7.84
Heat 4: Bobby Martinez (USA) 14.67 def. Jihad Khodr (BRA) 12.83
Heat 5: Mick Campbell (AUS) 12.33 def. Kai Otton (AUS) 12.00
Heat 6: Luke Stedman (AUS) 12.56 def. Pancho Sullivan (HAW) 12.5
Heat 7: Taylor Knox (USA) 15.00 def. Tom Whitaker (AUS) 12.46
Heat 8: Kelly Slater (USA) 16.00 def. Joan Duru (FRA) 13.00
Heat 9: Taj Burrow (AUS) 16.34 def. Gabe Kling (USA) 9.77
Heat 10: Dane Reynolds (USA) 17.26 def. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 12.50
Heat 11: Rodrigo Dornelles (BRA) 13.43 def. Jeremy Flores (FRA) 9.33
Heat 12: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 11.83 def. Tiago Pires (PRT) 8.17
Heat 13: Michel Bourez (PYF) 19.57 def. Bede Durbidge (AUS) 10.67
Heat 14: Kieren Perrow (AUS) 11.00 def. Roy Powers (HAW) 7.57
Heat 15: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 12.17 def. Daniel Wills (AUS) 8.13
Heat 16: Damien Hobgood (USA) 13.17 def. Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 6.73

Round 4 Quiksilver Pro France Match-Ups:
Heat 1: Adriano de Souza (BRA) vs. Dayyan Neve (AUS)
Heat 2: Ben Dunn (AUS) vs. Bobby Martinez (USA)
Heat 3: Mick Campbell (AUS) vs. Luke Stedman (AUS)
Heat 4: Taylor Knox (USA) vs. Kelly Slater (USA)
Heat 5: Taj Burrow (AUS) vs. Dane Reynolds (USA)
Heat 6: Rodrigo Dornelles (BRA) vs. Adrian Buchan (AUS)
Heat 7: Michel Bourez (PYF) vs. Kieren Perrow (AUS)
Heat 8: C.J. Hobgood (USA) vs. Damien Hobgood


SOURCE: ASP