Kelly Slater 

Kelly Slater (USA) needs to finish ninth or better in the ninth of event of the year to win his ninth ASP World Title. He’s one heat away from doing so after scoring a 9.00 and a 7.33 to win his Round 1 heat at the Billabong Pro Mundaka back-up venue of Sopelana today.

Slater’s 16.33 heat total was the second highest of the day; easily trumping the single digit totals of his opponents Taylor Knox (USA) and replacement surfer Reubyn Ash (GBR). He advances straight to Round 3 with the result.

“Where I surfed, the waves were better,” Slater said. “I had more options. I couldn’t really hear the scores, but once I did I could tell that Taylor was kind of struggling. Then I found a right with a nice open face and a big air section and that was my 9.00.”

Slater came extremely close to clinching the 2008 ASP World Title in France last week. In doing so, he would have secured his 40th ASP World Tour win at the same place he won his first—in Hossegor. It would have also been the earliest he, or anyone else, had ever won a world title.

Just one good-scoring wave away from overtaking Adrian Buchan (AUS) in their French final bout, Slater came up short and had to settle for second place and a trip to Spain. Being so close to the inevitable is taking its toll on the eight-time ASP World Champion.

“I hadn’t really thought about it that much until I was out there in the water but I don’t want to deal with the emotions of worrying about it anymore,” Slater said. “I just want to try to win one more heat and get it done.”

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Maxime Huscenot 

With the cancellation of this year's last event in Portugal, Maxime Huscenot (REU) and Alizee Arnaud (FRA) officially became the 2008 Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) European Junior Champions respectively in the male and female divisions clinching their maiden regional crowns after a very consistent season. Both will lead the European contingent at the ASP World Junior Championships (WJC) in Narabeen, Sydney, Australia, next January.

Alizee Arnaud (Hossegor, FRA), 19, who won three out of seven events this year, dominated the tour in the second half of the summer taking all her wins in a month-time with one ASP Grade-1 and two ASP Grade-2 events including the prestigious Billabong Pro Junior at Ericeira in Portugal.

Arnaud, who becomes the region's leader for a year, will fly the European flag against the world's best female under-21 surfers next January with fellow French surfer Lee-Ann Curren (Anglet, FRA) who earned her ticket with her second place finish on the overall ratings.

In the men's division, 16-year-old Maxime Huscenot (REU) becomes the yougest surfer ever to win the ASP European Junior title after winning the biggest event this year, the ASP Grade-4 Santa Surf Pro Junior in the Canary Islands. Huscenot, who started the year with an equal 3rd in the Rip Curl Pro Junior in Portugal, kept the pressure on his closest followers Medi Veminardi (REU) and Marc Lacomare (FRA) during the summer reaching the Quarterfinals of every event counting for his end-of-the-year points' total.

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Gravis Co Sligo Open

Strandhill played host to a busy weekend of surfing with the Gravis Co Sligo Open and Irish Team Training taking place. The Denny Irish Junior and Senior Surf Teams due to compete at the World Surfing Games and the European Surfing Championships later this year arrived in Strandhill on Friday for a training camp led by top Australia coach, Peter Cook. The camp was combined with the Gravis Co Sligo Open, postponed in August due to lack of surf but this time around with good surf and a great crowd the Co Sligo Surf Club once again hosted a top rate event.

The event saw surfers competing at a higher standard than every before with some unexpected results. The upsets began on Saturday in the U18 Boys when two under 12 surfers, Gearoid Mc Daid (Sligo) and Aaron O’Hare (Strandhill) turned heads by progressing to the quarter finals. Eleven year old Gearoid continued to impress along with fourteen year old Iarom Madden (Bundoran) charging all the way to the final while big names such as Irish Junior Champion, Owen Murphy (Bundoran) and James Garvey (Castlederg) were eliminated.

In the final Gearoid and Iarom faced off against Ronan Oertzen (Sligo) and Damien Conway (Lahinch). Gearoid opened the scoring with a long ride and some big manoeuvres that had the local crowd cheering on the shore. The judges struggled to agree on a winner with each surfer riding several high scoring waves during the final. When tabulated Iarom emerged in 1st place, Damien 2nd, Ronan 3rd and young Gearoid in 4th.

The U18 Bodyboard was an all Sligo final with Rory O’Dowd 1st, David Mulcahy 2nd,  Conor Flanaghan 3rd and Shane Daly 4th. Tahlia Britton (Rossnowlagh) dominated the U18 Girls final with a number of high scoring waves. She was followed in 2nd place by Ione Byrne (Aughris) who put in a solid performance. Amy May Garvey (Castlederg) finished 3rd and Niamh Kelly (Strandhill) 4th.

There were two Irish titles up for grabs at the event, the Irish Senior  (28+) and Masters (35+) titles. Stevie Burns (Portrush) defended his Irish Masters Title with a fine display of surfing while John Britton (Rossnowlagh) took his first Irish Senior title.

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