The Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) World Tour wrapped up an exciting week of competition last week at the Quiksilver Pro France, with eight-time ASP World Champion Kelly Slater (Cocoa Beach, FL), 36, missing his ninth world title by a loss in the Final to dark horse Adrian Buchan (Avoca Beach, AUS), 26. Slater is not far from the 2008 title however, needing only a ninth place finish at the upcoming Billabong Pro Mundaka to seal the deal. Bobby Martinez (Santa Barbara, CA), 26, Dane Reynolds (Ventura, CA) 23, and Damien Hobgood (Satellite Beach, FL) were standout performers in France as well.
Slater’s runner up finish in France marked his sixth Final appearance out of eight events held to date and was the only time he entered a Final and did not come out with a win. The second place result forces Slater to look towards Mundaka to claim this year’s title. The ASP World Tour legend will only need two heat victories to be crowned 2008 ASP World Champion and his first heat will include fellow veteran Taylor Knox (Carlsbad, CA), 37, and event wildcard Reubyn Ash (Bude, GBR), 20.
“In Mundaka for some reason I haven’t had trouble in those wildcard heats but in Brazil I have before,” Slater said. “Taj and Mick haven’t won this year but they’ve both won in Brazil and they’ve gotten seconds and thirds in Mundaka, so those are good contests for those guys. But worse case scenario for me, it will be narrowed down to one guy at the next event.”
Martinez landed a fifth place finish in France, moving him to seventh overall on the ratings. The Santa Barbara native continues to be a dominating force amongst his competitors after his third year on tour and is still motivated to better his seed regardless of Slater’s dominating season.
“For me it’s different,” Martinez said. “I am new to this tour – I am not going to give up, I’m not going to quit just because Kelly won the title. I don’t care; I still want to do my best. People where I come from never had the opportunity to do stuff and I have one so I’m going to take it and run with it as far as I can. As much as people are over it after watching Kelly win all the time, I look at it like there are kids where I come from who have nothing and this is something big for me. I ain’t goin to quit. Kelly won, but for me it’s different. It ain’t over ‘till it’s over for me. I’m here and I’m going to run with it as far as I can.”
Martinez is a two-time Billabong Pro Mundaka champion and will look to claim a third title at this year’s event.
“It’s so tough because I just got lucky with waves and my luck is bound to run out sometime so it could be this year,” Martinez said. “Mundaka has been a cool place to me the last couple of years and it will always be cool no matter what happens but I’ve never done good in France and then I’ve done good in Spain so I’m just hoping it’s not the other way around this year since I just did alright in France.”
Reynolds claimed a victory over fellow rookie standout Jordy Smith (Durban, ZAF), 20, in his Round 3 heat in the punchy French beachbreak. The progressive regular-footer posted big scores in the opening minutes of the heat, leaving Smith in a combination situation for the final 10 minutes of their bout.
“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 finished fifth overall in the Quiksilver Pro France, moving him up to No. 15 amongst the world’s finest competitors and continues to hold down the top spot amongst rookie surfers on tour. Reynolds has met Smith twice so far this season and has walked out on top both times.
“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.”
Hobgood earned his best result of the year with a third place finish, helping his chances of requalification for the 2009 ASP Dream Tour. Hobgood suffered a shoulder injury earlier this year and looks at the result as a fresh start to the end of his season.
"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."
To see if Slater claims his ninth world title in Spain, check out the LIVE webcast at www.billabongpro.com The Billabong Pro Mundaka has a waiting period from September 29-October 12, 2008.