While we are only about half-way through the 2008 ASP World Tour, we are already becoming witnesses to one of the all-time great performances throughout the course of the surfing year. Eight-time world champion Kelly Slater defeated last year’s champ Mick Fanning in the final of the Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay earlier today for his fourth victory at the prestigious South African break.
Slater has now won 4 out of the first 5 events in 2008, and with the victory at J-Bay he has all but essentially sealed his record 9th world title. A gracious Slater had this to say following his 38th tour victory – “I didn’t realize I was going to be overwhelmed by it, but I haven’t been in this position before, at this point of the year, with this many wins, there are great things going on in my life so I’m just trying to soak it up and be appreciative.”
The morning started off with classic Jeffreys Bay conditions keeping the 4-6 ft swell in almost perfect shape. However, after just a few heats in the morning, the wind turned onshore for the quarters, semis, and final. Both Slater and Fanning had issues adjusting to the bump and crumble that was being offered up. “It was really challenging,” Slater said. “You really have to change your frame of mind because we were looking at waves the other day where we were getting 30-45 second rides and doing six to eight maneuvers and now we’re looking at waves where if you get three moves it’s a good score. It’s really hard to change your perception on how you are going to surf a wave. I didn’t really catch on until the very end of that heat when I realized I could get a three move wave and probably seal it.” Fanning appeared uncharacteristically sloppy, even falling on waves that held opportunities for high scores. While the Billabong broadcast team wondered aloud if it was equipment issues, an obviously Fanning quickly put that all to rest. “I surfed like an idiot,” Fanning said. “I had the opportunity to win the whole thing and I fell and I don’t know why. I don’t know what happened, I just had a shocker. I was feeling great, I just couldn’t stay on my board.”
With the rest of the Top 44 now with deflated hopes for a world championship, it will be intriguing to see how the year plays out. Aside from Fanning’s bid to repeat, Taj Burrow, Joel Parkinson, and Andy Irons all came into the year with very high aspirations to come out on top. They are all very aware of the difficult, if not impossible, task that now lies in front of them. “Kelly wins another final, enough said, unbelievable.” Burrow said. “The door is really closing as far as I can see it. He’s got a ridiculous amount of keepers now so… how many events left? Not enough!”
It sure does appear that way. Congratulations Kelly Slater, winner of the 2008 Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay!