- 06 July 2009 | Surfing
Hot off the heals of the ASP Dream Tour South American leg, the world’s best surfers are readying themselves for the upcoming Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay, held at the iconic South African pointbreak from July 9 – 19, 2009.
Event No. 5 of 10 on the 2009 ASP World Tour, the Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay will host the ASP Top 45 as the battle for pride, points and the freshly intensified ASP World Title race.
Kelly Slater (USA), 37, reigning nine-time ASP World Champion and current ASP World No. 9, opened his 2009 season with three, uncharacteristic 17th place finishes before smashing his way to a 41st career victory in Brazil last week.
Formerly lacking the trademark intensity and drive that the Floridian is renowned for, Slater admits to a heightened focus after his Brazilian triumph, adding a dynamic new angle to this year’s ASP World Title race.
“Last week’s win just highlighted the importance of making more of a plan when I hit the water instead of leaving it to chance,” Slater said. “I had a plan in Brazil for the first time this year and it worked. A lot of people put in a lot of effort to help me get my stuff together and it’s about time I had a plan in heats so I don’t take any of that for granted. Sometimes things don’t go your way. I probably wouldn’t be very interested if I had started out super strong anyhow, and now it’s just a more difficult challenge to get things going. It kind of wakes you up.”
If any event on tour has the potential to offer Slater a positive follow-up to last week’s win, it’s the Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay. Throughout the event’s storied history, Slater has secured a record four victories (1996, 2003, 2005, 2008) and boasts some staggeringly high heat averages in recent years.
“Jeffreys just has this great curve and speed to it that seems to fit how I like to ride a wave but I’m sure everyone feels that there,” Slater said. “I have a good sense of the lineup I think, and can picture what most waves are going to do down the line. I’ve just always had a good vibe there.”
A major point of debate over the past several months has been Slater’s equipment used in competition. Pushing the boundaries of traditional performance equipment, Slater’s choices this year have been met with mixed reviews as well as mixed results, but the defending Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay champion claims he will let the conditions determine his ion.
“I’ll stick with whatever feels best and most trustworthy under my feet,” Slater said. “I have a few experiments showing up with my girlfriend fresh from the factory as well. I just love to expand on what we all ride and it’s a great platform to do that if it works right. If not, it seems like you’re making a huge mistake to everyone, but this season, I haven’t had the best wave opportunities in heats, specifically on the Goldy and in Tahiti where it was wave-catching competition. I only actually rode an experiment in the first event. Tahiti was the board I won on yesterday, but the waves just weren’t there then.”
Adriano de Souza (BRA), 22, former ASP World Junior Champion (2004) and current ASP World No. 2, will look to consolidate on an already-stellar season with a big performance in South Africa. A Runner-Up finish to Slater in last week’s Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro has legitimized the young Brazilian as a major threat in the race for the 2009 ASP World Title.
“I have had an amazing season – the best season of my career,” De Souza said. “It is only halfway, but to be No. 2 in the world is a dream. The event in Brazil last week was so incredible for me and gave me so much confidence for the rest of the year. I feel like I can compete with the best surfers in the world.”
De Souza has been nothing but consistent at Jeffreys Bay since his inception onto the elite ASP World Tour, finishing in the Quarterfinals in 2006, 2007 and 2008. With his new-found confidence following an impressive Runner-Up finish in South America, the progressive natural-footer will look to improve his on his past results at the venue in an effort to enhance an already banner season.
“The first time I came to Jeffreys Bay I was 11,” De Souza said. “I remember surfing there and dreaming about competing in the event one day. Jeffreys has always been a good event for me, but I always come up against really good surfers in the Quarterfinals. I have been working with my shaper on equipment and training specifically for this event so hopefully I can improve.”
De Souza and Slater will take on the rest of the ASP Top 45 including ratings’ frontrunners C.J. Hobgood (USA), 30, Taj Burrow (AUS), 31, Mick Fanning (AUS), 28, and current ASP World No. 1 Joel Parkinson (AUS), 28, in South Africa next week.
The Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay will have the option to run either the traditional or new competition formats, as well as utilizing the overlapping heats tem. Event organizers will determine this based on the conditions as the event waiting period moves closer.