Buchan beat Slater 15.73 to 15.16 in a tight heat held at Les Bourdaines this afternoon. The final berth was the first of Buchan’s ASP World Tour career. Prior to winning the Quiksilver Pro France, Buchan he had never advanced from the quarterfinal round.
“I can’t believe it, to have Kelly in the final and to beat him, I am speechless,” Buchan said. “He is my hero. I have watched him win five events this year – he has just been phenomenal. He sets the bar so high for all of us guys, I am really thankful that surfing has got such a great custodian."
Had Buchan lost the heat, Slater would have clinched his ninth ASP World Title. Buchan led the heat for most of the 35-minute affair with Slater needing a very attainable 7.51 to change the situation. The eight-time ASP World Champion caught a wave with seconds to go but came up short.
“I tried not to think about it paddling out for the final,” Buchan said. “I had visions of him winning the title but I just tried to focus on myself and what I had to do out there – get two really good waves. Luckily Kelly did not get that one at the end."
Buchan, who has been on tour for three years, spent the first half of his rookie year injured. He earned an injury wildcard to compete on the tour in 2007 and finished the year rated 19th. He jumps to world No. 9 with this result.
“I have been injured so obviously doing well and to have a win today makes it all sweet,” Buchan said. “My goal this year was to finish in the top 10 so we’ll see, we might have to take a look at reassessing that."
Slater dug deep in an effort to win his sixth event of the season, willing a last minute wave to pop up in the dying seconds. Despite needing a relatively small score, he was unable to pull out the last-minute comeback he’s renowned for.
“It’s cool that it came down to a wave in the end, at least it made it interesting,” Slater said. “Truth is though, Ace was more in sync with it. He got those open face ones and did the turns. I had one wave I surfed pretty good on that I knew was going to get me back in it. Then I just needed a chance in the end but there wasn’t quite enough time – I should have pushed for a 40-minute final.”
Slater only earned a 2.23 on the wave he caught with three seconds left. He will now have to wait until the next event in Mundaka to have another chance to clinch.
“I didn’t think I had the chance to win with that last ride,” Slater said. “I would have been bummed if they gave me the score on it. Maybe people didn’t see it, but my foot came off, I didn’t make that 360 very clean and I didn’t really get above the lip on that air. Maybe if there would have been a punt section where I could have done a big air I could have possibly gotten the score, but I knew that score wasn’t going to be close. It’s frustrating though, to be so close – literally one score away from winning the title. I guess at this point I’m two heat wins from winning the title.”
If Kelly finishes 9th or better in Mundaka he will win the world title. If he bows out with a 17th or 33rd and Mick Fanning (AUS) or Taj Burrow (AUS) win the event, the race continues until Brazil.
Slater beat Adriano de Souza (BRA) in the semifinals today. De Souza and Slater have now met eight times, with Slater getting the best of the Brazilian each time. De Souza moves to World No. 4 with the result.
“It is great to surf against Kelly,” de Souza said. “He pushes my level further and forces you to put so much energy into the heat. I learned so much from this heat and I hope that next time I can get past that one. I am really proud. I came to Europe to get some really good results and I did already so I am really happy. Making the semis is a really good result for me so I hope I can keep it up and stay in the Top 10 –that is my main focus this year.”
Buchan beat Damien Hobgood (USA) in the semifinals en route to his maiden victory.
"I never really had a stellar heat the whole contest, so that was kind of a bummer but I’m really stoked with this result and hopefully I can build some momentum,” Hobgood said. “This is the result I needed to get my year started. It is a good start to the end of the year for me."
Hobgood moved from 31st to 26th on the ASP World Tour ratings with the result. Only the Top 27 ASP World Tour surfers at year’s end automatically requalify for the following year.
The ASP Top 45 will now head to Mundaka in the Basque Country of Spain for the ninth stop of 11 on the 2008 ASP World Tour.
Final Quiksilver Pro France Results:
Final: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 15.74 def. Kelly Slater (USA) 15.16