The legend of Kelly Slater just continues to grow. The 11-time world champion won his 50th ASP World Tour event Thursday at the Hurley Pro at Lower Trestles, in San Clemente, California. It was his third straight win at the event, and his second win of the season. He now has made seven of the last eight finals at Lowers, where he won his first contest as a pro 22 years ago.
“I feel like I’ve had so many good years at Lowers and the pressure is really on every year to make the final," he said afterwards. "I feel like it’s been like that since I’ve been on tour. It’s cool to win the 50th here.”
Slater went into the contest as the clear favorite, but he has spent most of the year in unfamiliar waters. Playing catchup to Mick Fanning, who fronts the ratings and is making a strong bid for his third world title, and Joel Parkinson, who’s riding in second and extremely hungry for a title of his own, Slater had his work cut out for him.
Coincidentally, he would have to get through Fanning in the semifinals and Parko in the finals to win the event.
“I knew that [finals] heat would either make or break me for the year," said Slater. "I would have let Parko have those extra 2,000 points if he’d won, and it would look very different on the ratings."
“I’ve had so many good years at Lowers and the pressure is really on every year to make the final -- I feel like it’s been like that since I’ve been on tour." -- Kelly Slater
Fanning, likewise, knew what was at stake. "Kelly and I both knew what was going on, and if I got on top from there the title race would have just been further away,” said the Aussie. “He surfed a really smart heat and threw caution to the wind, and it paid off. But it’s another result I don’t have to worry about, and I learned a lot of things.”
Adriano De Souza was also in the mix and one of the in-form surfers of the contest. In round five he took out fellow countryman Gabriel Medina, but came up short against Parkinson in the quarterfinals. Just the same, De Souza slides up to fifth in the world, and is still very much in the world title hunt.
“I had a nice heat against Gabriel a few months ago at the US Open and he beat me,” De Souza said. “Gabriel’s such a good guy and a good competitor, he’s going to battle for the world title soon and I just got lucky.”
The ASP World Tour will now turn its attention to Europe and the Quiksilver Pro in Hossegor, France, and the Rip Curl Pro in Peniche, Portugal. Fanning, De Souza and Slater have all had success -- and all have won -- in Portugal before.
“It’s a long year, there are still four events to go, anything can happen,” said Parkinson. “It makes it interesting, it’s good for surfing to see a race this tight.”
Anything can, and usually does happen on the World Tour, but there's one thing we can all be sure of: Slater traditionally gets his title momentum going at Lowers, and he’s circling Fanning and Parkinson like a shark. Sitting only 6,000 points from the pole position, he smells blood in the water and is starting to really stalk that 12th world title.
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