Kelly Slater in the Billabong Pro Teahupoo 

The Billabong Pro Teahupoo, stop No. 3 of 10 on the 2009 ASP World Tour, will host the world’s best surfers from May 9 – 20, 2009, with a slew of ASP World Champions looking to capitalize at the infamous venue.

Kelly Slater (USA), 37, reigning nine-time ASP World Champion, has suffered two uncharacteristic equal 17th place finishes this season (both at the hands of event wildcards), but the allure of an unprecedented 10th ASP World Title has the Floridian geared up and preparing for an assault on Tahiti.

“The pressure of 10 isn’t a bad thing but it’s not something you want to think about all the time either,” Slater said. “I’m not happy to have such a slow start, but it’s good fuel for doing something if I can get motivated for it. It’s all how you view it. I don’t expect to have an easy heat at this event to start, more likely one of the hardest heats to with. If I can get past at least one wildcard this year, I might actually have a chance to get a result!”

Beginning with his victory last season at the Billabong Pipeline Masters, Slater has displayed a cavalier approach to experimental board design, often shaping his own equipment for competition. This season has seen the iconic natural-footer use both traditional and unconventional equipment, with his ion for the Billabong Pro Teahupoo is still undecided.

“I’m working which boards to take now,” Slater said. “I think this year is pretty much up in the air for me as I really dig into design and a new approach to what I ride. I have been really bored with design for a little while and want a new feel. There isn’t enough time to work that out off-season so I’m just going with it.”

Mick Fanning (AUS), former ASP World Champion (2007) and current ASP World No. 2, has been extremely consistent in 2009, posting a 3rd and a 5th in the opening events of the season.

“I’m really enjoying the tour this year and I feel like I’m surfing my best,” Fanning said. “It’s been a little disappointing not to get a win in the first two events, but as long as I’m surfing well and not throwing heats away making silly mistakes, I don’t let it get me down.”

Fanning’s performances at the deadly break have improved in recent years, with the Australian establishing himself as a real contender in hollow lefthanders.

“I’m really comfortable competing at Teahupoo now,” Fanning said. “I’ve familiarized myself with the break over the past couple of years and scored some big days. I stay with Alain Riou and his family when I’m there and they’re always passing on a valuable local knowledge and that has definitely helped me strengthen my act out there. At the Billabong Pro, the biggest threats are the wildcards because they’re all Teahupoo specialists.”

In addition to sparring off against the world’s best surfers in a bid to regain the ASP World Title, Fanning will also have to contend with Andy Irons (HAW), 30, returning to competition for the first time in 2009 at the Billabong Pro Teahupoo.

“I’m looking forward to catching up with Andy (Irons) – I miss the guy,” Fanning said. “Everyone knows he’s one of the best backhand tube riders on Earth and he’s always going to be a threat at Teahupoo. He’s had some time away from the tour so it will be really interesting to see if it’s re-ignited his passion for competition.”

Irons, former three-time ASP World Champion and past winner of the Billabong Pro Teahupoo (2002), will don the competition singlet for the first time in 2009 at the Billabong Pro Teahupoo, having accepted an event wildcard. Irons is currently on sabbatical from the ASP Dream Tour, but plans to return to full-time competition in 2010.

“Life off tour has been a lot more active than I thought it was going to be,” Irons said. “In a way, I think it’s been a bit more hectic than before, but it’s all new stuff. Random strike mission trips, movie premieres, award shows, promos, team trips. I’m down in Oz filming right now, and I go straight from here to Tahiti for a Billabong shoot and the event. It sounds like a lot, but it’s been good for me to see that there is a life away from tour, and there are a lot of swells I want to chase down before the year is over.”

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6.0 Lowers Pro 

The second day of the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) World Qualifying Series (WQS) 6-Star PRIME 6.0 Lowers Pro offered improved two-to-three foot (1 metre) conditions to the event’s top seeds and saw Lower Trestles local Nathan Yeomans (San Clemente, CA), 27, lead the field through to Round 3.

All surfers competing in the ASP 6-Star PRIME 6.0 Lowers Pro are looking to capitalize on the ample ratings points on offer at the premier event. The ASP WQS contest’s PRIME status offers the maximum amount of ratings points towards each surfers qualification campaigns for the coveted ASP World Tour, making the stop at Lower Trestles significant for each surfer’s 2009 overall rating on The Grind.

Yeomans put his local knowledge of Lower Trestles to good use when he destroyed a long righthand wall with several beyond-vertical blasts to post the day’s highest single wave score of a 9.47 out of 10. The talented goofy-footer continued to dominate his heat when he bashed another impressive score and earned the day’s highest heat total of 18.24 out of 20.

“I was actually positioning myself for the left because I saw everyone scrambling for the right and I was able to get underneath them,” Yeomans said. “I knew it was going to be a nice right, and I was able to get a couple of good turns and it had a nice wall so I was able to ride it all the way through. I knew it was going to be a good score, so when I heard the 9-point-score, I was like, yeah, I like that!”

The San Clemente native is hoping that he can utilize his familiarity of the cobblestone reef to post a top result at the 6.0 Lowers Pro. Yeomans has had a successful competitive history at previous ASP WQS events at the location in past years and is out to capitalize on the contest’s ASP 6-Star PRIME status to help his cause towards qualification for the ASP Dream Tour.

“I’ve yet to make the Final out here and I had a bad event here last year, but I made the Semifinals the two years before that,” Yeomans said. “It’s always been a good event for me and now that it’s a 6-Star PRIME, it really counts for qualification for the World Tour. It’s definitely one of everyone’s favorite places to surf, so I’m glad that it’s a 6-Star PRIME.”

Adriano de Souza (Guaruja Sao Paulo, BRA), 22, displayed world-class surfing today at Lower Trestles, explaining why the young Brazilian is a top competitor on the ASP Dream Tour. The explosive regular-footer issued several critical backhand turns on two steep Lowers walls to earn one of the day’s highest single-wave scores of a 9.33 out of 10. De Souza’s precise backhand attack on his next wave helped him attain an impressive heat total of 17.83 out of 20 while advancing confidently in to Round 3.

“The conditions are a little bit small, but it’s still really good,” De Souza said. “I’ve been surfing Trestles everyday and to surf there with only three other guys out is great. Luckily, I was able to grab the two best waves in that heat, so I’m stoked.”

The San Clemente, California transplant permanently moved to the famous surf-town from his home in Brazil and his impressive performance at his new home-break shows that De Souza has been spending his fare share of time at Lower Trestles.

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Kelly Slaters surfed with a door for Sports Illustrated

The article "Ready for the Next Wave", by award-winning SI senior writer Gary Smith, has been published in this week's issue of Sports Illustrated and features 9-time ASP World Champion Kelly Slater surfing with... a door.


Smith followed legendary surfer Kelly Slater from coast to coast - from a photo shoot in New York to his home in Santa Barbara - and discovered a man who was candid and thoughtful, one who was intent on figuring himself out in addition to harboring aspirations of "carrying surfing from a niche sport, seen mostly on the Internet, toward the mainstream.

Kelly could be the Michael Jordan and David Stern of his sport - the iconic athlete doing aerials and 360s and the power broker trying to change the structure and marketing of his sport."