Reigning ASP World Champion Mick Fanning successfully defended his Quiksilver Pro France title as he defeated nine-time ASP World Champion and current ASP world number one, Kelly Slater in pumping six-to-eight foot (2.5 metre) barrels at Les Culs Nus Beach near Biarritz.
The seventh stop on the world tour ended in dramatic fashion with a plethora of high-scoring rides in the treacherous conditions, and it was the Australian who finally edged out the American in a hard-fought Final.
“That was difficult,” said Fanning, 29. “Kelly and I were talking out there about how we were trying to get in the spot. There was just a lot of water moving and it was super challenging.
“I got absolutely hammered by that set – copped the whole thing on the head and it killed me. You were either in the spot or you weren’t, and I was fortunate enough to be there for a couple.”
'It felt like a bunch of guys getting barrelled off their heads for a few days' – Mick Fanning
The win was Fanning’s 13th on the tour and he said the demanding conditions made it all the more special: “This one feels pretty good. Last year the waves weren’t really pumping. This year, it almost didn’t feel like a surf contest, but rather a bunch of guys getting barrelled off their heads for a few days.”
Slater, who had arrived in Europe in phenomenal form, which he continued as he put out home favourite Michel Bourez in the quarter final before scoring his first perfect run on the tour, grabbing a Perfect 10 in his semi final against Brett Simpson.
“It wasn’t one of those classic waves,” Slater said. “It was a little wonky at the start and I was waiting for it to hit the shallow part of the sandbar. I grabbed as hard as I could at the top of the wave to slow myself down, but my fins released and I ended up slipping down the face on the nose of my board.
“I thought I had blown it, but as I got to the bottom, my fins caught and I could reset my line and it worked out.”
'I think everyone on tour is trying their hardest to prevent Kelly from getting number 10' – Jordy Smith
But that was to be the best of Slater as he struggled to find a rhythm in the difficult conditions. “Ouch,” he said. “It was really difficult out there and I didn’t get much aside from a few poundings. Congrats to Mick for finding a couple of scores out there.”
World number two Jordy Smith also struggled to find his rhythm as Fanning put him out in their quarter final. “There’re not many good ones out there,” Smith said. “It’s kind of a diamond-in-the-rough situation. That’s the way it goes though – you win some, you lose some.
“I think everyone on tour is trying their hardest to prevent Kelly from getting number 10, but what can you do?”