Kelly Slater: the number 10 is in your sleep

The sixth instalment of the ASP’s sole roving event license, the Rip Curl Pro Search, is gearing up for an historic couple of weeks as the world’s best surfers converge on the island paradise of Puerto Rico.

Stop No. 9 of 10 on the 2010 ASP World Tour, the Rip Curl Pro Search Portugal will enjoy a waiting period from October 30 through November 10, 2010, and potentially bear witness to one of the greatest sporting feats in history.

Kelly Slater (USA), 38, former nine-time ASP World Champion and current ASP World No. 1, is firmly in the driver’s seat in the race for the 2010 title heading into the Caribbean, with only young South African and current ASP World No. 2, Jordy Smith (ZAF), 22, remaining in the hunt.

“The pundits are correct (it’s absolutely mine to lose at this point),” Slater said. “I'm in as good a position as I could hope for coming out of Portugal with Jordy (Smith) finishing well there. I'm pretty comfortable, but I know Jordy has been consistent all year and could win another event. I just have to do my thing on the other side of the draw, and I'm still looking to win events if I'm in them. I'm excited for Puerto Rico. It used to be a second home. We'll see how familiar it feels.”

For Slater to clinch his historic 10th ASP Crown at the Rip Curl Pro Search Puerto Rico, the following scenarios must occur:

-If Slater finishes Equal 3rd or better, he clinches the 2010 ASP World Title.
-If Slater finishes Equal 5th or Equal 9th, Smith must win the event to send the ASP World Title Race to Hawaii.
-If Slater finishes Equal 13th or Equal 25th, Smith must finish Equal 3rd or better to send the ASP World Title Race to Hawaii.
-Essentially, if Smith fails to finish higher than Equal 5th, Slater claims the 2010 ASP World Title.

With his familiarity with the venue and enthusiasm the Rip Curl Pro Search event, the iconic Floridian is looking as dangerous as ever.

“I actually pitched the idea to Quiksilver six or eight years ago hoping they would do it to start the year,” Slater said. “I think it's a great idea and we should have more variety and worldwide mobile events.”

Tiago Pires: go for it, boy

The performance level stepped into top gear at the Quiksilver Pro Portugal an Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) sanctioned Men’s Star Series event with quarter-finalists decided in clean conditions at the main contest site of Ribeira D’Ilhas.

Long, lines in the 3ft (1m) range pushed down the point during the incoming tide to allow for an incredible display of modern progressive surfing during an intense morning session of competition. Favourites Tiago Pires (Ericeira, PRT) 30, Josh Kerr (Gold Coast, AUS) 26, and Jeremy Flores (Capbreton/New Caledonia, FRA) 22, along with standouts Gony Zubizarreta (Vigo, ESP) 25, Jonathan Gonzalez (Tenerife, CNY) 30, led the charge through to the quarter-finals of this $US145,000 event.

Tiago Pires in the final heat of the day laid down a serious challenge to the Quiksilver Pro Portugal 2010 title with a totally commanding performance in the tricky high-tide conditions. Once again it was his local knowledge of the main break that marked the difference over his opponent Hugo Savalli (REU).

“Local knowledge I think plays a big role definitely when the high tide is a little tricky. I knew I had to wait for the waves that had a wall and a bit more power in it. Hugo went on the first one and I knew that the second one was going to be better so I just went for it. With that score it became a tough heat for Hugo after that one because there weren’t many waves after.”

Pires is aware that his nearest rivals are also in hot form and also have a building knowledge of the break. Relaxed and composed, Pires who has won twice before a major Star Series event on home soil, is aware of what is yet to come.

“I am just taking it heat by heat at this stage. I know they surf great and when they come my way I have to think about them but until then I want to improve my surfing. Get a feel of my board and some confidence and wait for the match-ups.”

Josh Kerr blew away everyone with a mixture of powerful turns blended with varied aerial manoeuvres. Punching out a combined two-wave heat total of 18.23 out of 20, Kerr has firmed as favourite to make it back-to-back Star Series victories after his recent win in Canada. Conditions are expected to remain similar tomorrow allowing Kerr to pull his full repertoire of tricks out of the bag.

“I noticed the judges were scoring high the manoeuvres on the outside so my game plan was to do everything on the outside and not bother with the inside stuff. I stuck to the bigger ones and they seemed to have more power than the waves yesterday so stoked to be able to do a bottom turn.” (laughs)

Jonathan Gonzalez (CNY) 30, is one step closer to possibly his best ever career result in a major Star Series contest. Pitted today against experienced campaigner Eneko Acero (EUK), Gonzalez answered back from the initial challenge laid down by his opponent’s opening 8.67 ride. Waiting for the right wave and using his priority to perfection, Gonzalez sealed his win with some high-speed power gouges to nail a 9.23 out of 10.

“I was just trying to find a really good wave and it came right at the end with priority and it was bad luck for Eneko because he is a really great competitor but I am really stoked to get through.”

With the correct equipment under his feet and his confidence growing with each heat win, Gonzalez has no excuses if aiming to achieve his goals.

“I have been trying for a long time to find a magic board for small waves and this is the one that does that for me. It’s wide but not too thick and it feels good on the waves here. I hope I can win here because I have never won a 6-star rated event before so it could be a great result for me.”

Gony Zubizarreta (ESP) was another standout performer on the long right-hand point break. Off to a flying start with an 8.33, Zubizarreta got lucky not to have been punished with a priority error late in the heat.

“I got a good one at the beginning and I knew Charlie was surfing really well and then I fell on my second wave which put a bit of pressure on me. He was surfing on the inside and getting a few scores so I knew it was going to be tough to hold the lead. I made a mistake on priority at the end of the heat too. I was on the peak alone and I got a wave and fell so Charlie got back the priority. I should’ve kicked out but you learn from these mistakes.

Zubizarreta has shown this week he has the fire power to take down even the highest rated opponent. Facing Tiago Pires (PRT) in quarter-final nº4 and having faced him on previous occasions the scene is set for a great showdown.

“Tiago has been ripping and I have surfed against him a couple of times here so it is great to surf against him at his home and I am looking forward to it.”

Conditions are expected to hang in overnight allowing for a possible crowning of this year’s Quiksilver Pro Portugal champion tomorrow lunch time. Event officials will make a first-call at 09:30 for a possible start shortly after to quarter-final nº1 with Jeremy Flores (FRA) up against Hodei Collazo (EUK).

Surfers competing in the Quiksilver Pro Portugal are out to claim valuable ASP World Ranking points in their endeavour to qualify for next year’s elite ASP World Tour. European surfers are on stop nº 10 of 12 in their bid to claim this year’s ASP European Men’s Title currently lead by Marc Lacomare (FRA).

Quiksilver Pro Portugal Round Four Results
Heat 1: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 15.16 Def. Justin Mujica (PRT) 13.50
Heat 2: Hodei Collazo (EUK) 13.44 Def. Adrien Toyon (REU) 11.00
Heat 3: Jonathan Gonzalez (CNY) 17.06 Def. Eneko Acero (EUK) 13.50
Heat 4: Leonardo Neves (BRA) 11.60 Def. Pablo Paulino (BRA) 8.93
Heat 5: Josh Kerr (AUS) 18.23 Def. Mickey Picon (FRA) 15.27
Heat 6: Marc Lacomare (FRA) 13.10 Def. Frederico Morais (PRT) 10.40
Heat 7: Gony Zubizarreta (ESP) 15.40 Def. Charles Martin (GLP) 13.73
Heat 8: Tiago Pires (PRT) 16.30 Def. Hugo Savalli (REU) 9.50

Quiksilver Pro Portugal Remaining Round Three Results
Heat 6: Marc Lacomare (FRA) 15.67, Mickey Picon (FRA) 12.86, Klee Strachan (ZAF) 8.37
Heat 7: Gony Zubizarreta (ESP) 14.33, Hugo Savalli (REU) 11.50, Bruno Rodrigues (BRA) 3.77
Heat 8: Tiago Pires (PRT) 15.60, Charles Martin (GLP) 11.57, Jesse Mendes (BRA) 10.27

Benoit Clemente: local star

Under a thick blanket of fog and mist, the second day of competition at the Billabong ISA World Games presented by Amarok of Volkswagen went down in fine fashion at Punta Hermosa breaks in Peru today.

After a stellar start in the long, playful lefts of Day One, the sun strained this morning to reveal a macking swell that tested the international contingency with well-overhead conditions. Less than half a mile down the beach at Pico Alto the wave faces were pushing 40 feet.

Belted all day by a powerful southwest swell today, the competition at Hermosa’s two breaks (Señoritas and Caballeros) was fierce.

Although the constant crush of huge breakers kept the competitors from scoring as high as they might otherwise have, the action was non-stop and the size added to the excitement and degree of difficulty. Some surfers were looking forward to the potential of even bigger waves tomorrow.

“We didn’t come here to ride small fat mush, said one of the top riders from the Canadian team, who are all now in the repercharge heats and looking for a way to advance back to the qualifying round. “We’re used to riding big junky pumping point surf. We are ready for the swell and can’t wait for tomorrow!”

In the bigger surf that sometimes resembled a washing machine, both the men and women managed big drops and often found speed and clean lines way into the insides where they were often nearly out of sight range of the judges.

Local favorite Matias Mulanovich got through his heat, and Christobal de Col kept the Peruvian team’s dream alive as the dark horse team moved closer to a top potential finish. Likewise Brazilian Alan Jhones, Panamanian Gary Saavedra and Frenchman Vincent Duvignac advanced for their country along with UK’s Micah Lester, and Costa Rican Isaaic Vega while Ecuador Venezuela, and New Zealand remain threats if they can advance from the repercharge tomorrow.

The consensus on standout performances were from South African Chad de Tiot who had some of the highest scores of the day, Mexico’s Miguel Trujillo who took down some heavy Latin competition. Argentina’s Leandro Ursuna and Puerto Rican Alejandro Moreda also won handily against strong foes.

Of the standouts that managed to advance today, both the American and Australian teams put on strong showings with one-time World Tour surfer Drew Courtney (Aus) highlighting the day by dropping the highest heat score at Senoritas with a combined total of 14 points. South Africa remains a serious contender with most of the team advancing as well.

On the women’s side, UK‘s Sarah Beardmore, Australia’s Rebecca Woods, Japan’s Tashiro Nagise and Anali Gomez from Peru were notable both for their tenacity and grace under pressure. And in some cases their surprising confidence: “I’m happy because I made it to the third round, as Sofia did”, said an elated Anali Gomez of Peru. “The swell is larger now and there’s a super-strong current. It’s difficult out there, but as locals we know how the beach works and where to position ourselves. My objective now is getting into the final and winning the World Championship.” That’s confidence with a capital C.

For the Americans, all four of their surfers managed to advance today with San Clemente’s Trevor Thornton leading the charge with a heat win in one of the day’s final match-ups.

“There weren’t really too many waves until the 8-minute mark in my heat and I got lucky and was able to get a good one,” said Thornton after the heat. “I think it’s really cool to represent the USA, I’m the youngest one on the men’s team and I really like it.” “It’s never this big at home. I don’t think I’ve surfed waves this big in California in at least three years.”

Although just like yesterday the Australians were the visual standouts, once again Team USA quietly won all of their heats for the day - with no fanfare.

“The team was nervous about Trevor before his heat,” one observer noted, “but he went out there and smashed it.”

Source: ISA World Surfing Games