Layne Beachley

Layne Beachley (AUS), 36, former seven-time ASP Women’s World Champion and current No. 3 on the 2008 ASP Women’s World Tour ratings, has officially announced her retirement from full-time competition, effective at the end of the year.

“I feel like now is a really good time, even though I am in my career best form, because I am an all-or-nothing kind of girl and to achieve the goals I set for myself in surfing, I have to give it my all and I’m not,” Beachley said.

“I have to be honest with myself – I’m not commiting 100% time and energy and effort and focus into winning world titles. It doesn’t mean that I can’t win world titles, but my priorities are beginning to shift and my focus and my passion in business and charity work and my ambassador roles is beginning to have more appeal to me than competing for a living. I feel like I’ve achieved everything that I’ve wanted to and that it is good to go out while I’m still in top form.”

Beachley’s announcement comes as a surprise to the surfing community, given that the iconic natural-footer is surfing better than ever and currently challenging for the ASP Women’s World Title once again, sitting in No. 3 spot on the ratings at present.

“I feel like I’m surfing the best I have in my whole career,” Beachley said. “Nothing has really changed on tour except for my attitude. It’s my lack of commitment to winning. I base my choices off my experiences and my experience has told me that you have to be 100% focused and also love you’re doing. Even though I love what I do, I’m beginning to love what I’m doing out of the water more. My passion for competitive surfing has been diluted, and to achieve success and to win world titles, you can’t afford for it to be diluted too much. So now I’ve had to make a decision and I’m convinced I’m doing the right thing.’

The Sydney-sider is the most accomplished female surfer in the history of the sport, winning a record seven ASP Women’s World Titles (1998-2004, 2006), scalping 29 elite tour victories, and collecting countless accolades as one of surfing’s most recognizable figures.

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CJ Hobgood

Former ASP World Champion C.J. Hobgood (USA) defeated Joel Parkinson (AUS) in three-foot (one meter) barreling waves at the Billabong Pro Mundaka to claim his first ASP World Tour victory in four years today.

The heat was a déjà vu affair of a 2004 final they shared in Japan with Hobgood garnering a last minute win over Parkinson in the dying seconds of the heat.

“If I was Joel I would want to kill me right now,” Hobgood said. “I honestly don’t know how that happened. Some things are just meant to be. I’ve had a very difficult year. I probably struggled with my surfing more than I should have, but that’s life. You get older and life throws curve balls at you and that’s what makes this feeling right now so good.”

Despite opening the heat with a near-perfect 9.93, Hobgood was trailing Parkinson by 5.90 points with 15 seconds to go. With a set approaching, Parkinson took the first wave in an effort to increase his lead. Hobgood snuck into a small barrel on the wave behind it, earned an 8.57 and won the heat.

“Me and Joel were looking at that last wave and he was thinking about it hard,” Hobgood said. “I just made sure he was going to go or I was going to go. I didn’t know there was another one behind it, but I did hear a couple of whistles and turned around and saw the wave. I knew it was my last chance.

I put my head down and didn’t even look at the wave and paddled to the shoulder as hard as I could because I didn’t want to get stuck behind it. I saw Joel in the peripheral and just threaded the needle. I could have been a little bit greedier, but I knew if I got a barrel and rode the rest of the wave I’ve have a good chance.”

Hobgood moves to ASP World No. 6 with the result today. Parkinson moves to ASP World No. 3. The final was Hobgood’s second this season – he lost to Slater in Fiji – and Parkinson’s first.

“I’m just stoked it was a good final,” Hobgood said. “Parko went mad on his waves and I just had a chance at the end. I think it was a good final for both of us. I’m just stoked Mundaka broke for three days.”

Despite having an amazingly consistent year, Parkinson was unable to claim the victory that has eluded him for over two years.

“That was really frustrating,” Parkinson said. “He got the best waves in that heat and I got the scraps. I was holding on to a thin lead and it slipped away from me as soon as I turned around and saw that last wave coming.”

Like many of the top-seeded surfers, Parkinson entered the event disenchanted with the season given nine-time ASP World Champion Kelly Slater’s supremacy. Parkinson’s interest piqued as he found himself at the pointy end of the Billabong Pro Mundaka draw.

“I was kind of excited,” Parkinson said. “I wanted to win one. I hadn’t won one in awhile so I was going to try to.”

Despite the loss, Parkinson was gracious in defeat – giving credit to Hobgood for his impressive surfing throughout the event.

“He deserved it,” Parkinson said. “He ripped this week. Sometimes you come to an event and some people just get suited to them and this event really suited him. Everything he touched turned to gold and his surfing just really flowed this week.”

Parkinson defeated Adrian Buchan (AUS) in the semifinals in a fashion similar to his elimination by Hobgood in the final.

“It’s always disappointing to lose when you have a good lead but I knew there was going to be opportunities for Joel given the way the waves went,” Buchan said. “I had one good barrel that just went a little bit long on me and Joel caught a really good wave and made the most of it. Joel is an amazing surfer and it was good to have a heat out there with him while there were good waves coming through.”

Buchan won the last ASP World Tour event in France, and with his 3rd place result today, jumps to World No. 7. He was rated 14th before the European tour leg.

“I’m happy with a 3rd,” Buchan said. “Obviously I would have loved to have been up on the podium again with a 1st or 2nd this week but it’s been a good leg. After my 33rd at Trestles I was pretty disappointed because I really wanted to do well there, but then I just put everything into my European leg and it was a pretty good one for me.”

Hobgood beat Luke Stedman (AUS) en route to his final berth today. Previous to his Billabong Pro Mundaka semifinal finish, Stedman hadn’t advanced beyond Round 4 in a 2008 ASP World Tour event. His 3rd place finish equals his career best result .

“It’s my best result this year so I’m pretty happy,” Stedman said. C.J. is in good form right now and the conditions are definitely favoring a goofy footer. I’m happy with the result, happy with the event, I’m just a happy guy right now.”

Stedman rounds out the Top 10 with a World No. 10 rating post the Billabong Pro Mundaka. He will look to maintain the momentum heading to Brazil and France – the last two events of the season.

“My goal is totally to be in the Top 10 at the end of the year and as high up in the Top 10 as possible,” Stedman said. Coming 10th after Mundka and having a couple more events to work on that is good – I’m definitely excited for the next couple of events.”

Billabong Pro Mundaka Final Results:
Final: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 18.50 def. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 15.83

Kelly Slater, 9 times ASP World Champion

Kelly Slater, 36, has won a record ninth ASP World Title after advancing out of Round 3 of the Billabong Pro Mundaka – the ninth event of 11 on the 2008 ASP World Tour.

Slater came into the event needing an equal ninth finish to clinch the title, he secured that by beating local wildcard Eneko Acero (EUK) in four foot waves at Mundaka this morning.

“It’s going to take a little while to sink in,” Slater said when mobbed at the water’s edge. “I’m probably going to have to call home and talk to family for it to really hit me.”

Slater’s 2008 crowning comes 16 years after securing his first ASP World Title at age 20. He is the oldest and youngest surfer in ASP history to win a world title. The now nine-time ASP World Champion joined the tour in 1991 and won his first ASP World Title in 1992.

When asked if he had ever dreamed about achieving such a feat when he came onto the scene 17 years ago, Slater was close to speechless.

“I never even thought about it,” Slater said. “It never even popped into my head. It’s crazy.”

Despite entering his 14th year on tour already the owner of most every accolade in professional surfing, 2008 has been a banner year for Slater.

With five wins in the first seven events of the year, a second place finish at the last event in France and a Round 4 berth at the Billabong Pro Mundaka later today, Slater is on track to post his most successful season to date. Slater’s winning average in 2008 is 89 percent at present.

“I felt a lot more at ease this year,” Slater said. “It’s probably my personal life. That’s the biggest change in my life. I’m happy and settled and I’ve got the support there that just feels amazing. Nothing else has really changed, I’ve worked with my boards a little bit here and there and I’ve always worked on my mind and my emotions, but something just really clicked into place this year.”

After winning his first ASP World Tour title in 1992 and claiming five titles in a row from 1994 to 1998, Slater went into semi-retirement at age 26 citing burnout and lack of motivation.

He returned to the tour full-time in 2003, lost a heart-wrenching title race to Andy Irons (HAW) that same year, and wasn’t able to reclaim the crown until 2005. Slater cruised to title No. 8 in 2006, finished World No. 3 in 2007 and is once again World No. 1 after winning his ninth ASP World Title today.

“In 1996 I had a good year – I won 7 out of 13,” Slater said. “In 1996 I won five events of 12 – but both years I was counting ninths at the end of the year. This year I’ve won five events of eight, I’m sitting on a second and I still have a throwaway to spare. The depth of success I’ve had this season is the deepest of my career.”

With such a monumental lead so early in the season, it was less a matter of if Slater would win the title, and more a matter of when.

“I think there were key heats this year, a few I had with Taj, Parko and even Bobby in Fiji, where I got waves under the other surfers’ priority and won important heats, that it really sunk in that it was going to happen,” Slater said. “It was probably JBay where it really sunk in.”

Slater was quick to acknowledge 2007 ASP World Champion Mick Fanning (AUS) and the support he’s given him both professionally and personally today.

“When Mick won last year I was obviously really stoked for him.” Slater said. “I think I knew from the first contest last year that Mick was going to win. He was really focused and he didn’t have anything standing in his way mentally or emotionally. He was the one person who sent me text when I was looking at leaving that said, ‘We need you to stay on tour. Don’t worry, you’ll find that personal stuff. It will happen,’ and now it has. Even though he is the toughest competitor on tour he’s always been a good friend and I have a lot of respect for Mick.”

Because Slater lost interest after winning five titles in a row from ’94 to ’98, and then toyed with retirement again after winning No. 7 and No. 8 right after each other, it would seem like winning back to back titles might have lost its appeal for the world’s most decorated surfer.

“No, winning them back to back is still pretty sweet,” Slater said with a smile. “If I can go back to back starting now that would be pretty sweet. It is really nice to come back and win it after you lost it the year before though. I’m sure if Mick were to come back and win one, or Andy were to come back and win one – C.J., any of those guys, they would definitely say how sweet it is to win it again.”

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