Mick Fanning at the 2012 Billabong Pro in Rio de Janeiro Marcelo Maragni/Red Bull Content Pool

If the last hour and a half of the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast is any indication of what we can expect out of the 2013 ASP World Tour season, surf fans around the globe are in for quite a ride this year.

In pumping six-foot surf, Kelly Slater won the Quik Pro and asserted himself as the man to beat in the process. In a continuum of 2012’s world title race, Slater found himself paired up against defending world champ and local hero Joel Parkinson in a 40-minute, no-holds-barred final at the Gold Coast’s world-famous Kirra. The win was Slater's 52nd world tour victory, and the fourth time he’s hoisted the Quiksilver Pro Australia trophy.

In the opening three minutes of the final Parkinson drew first blood, posting an 8.67. Slater countered with a 6.83 followed almost immediately by an 8.73. Twenty minutes later Slater took hold of the final with a near-perfect 9.83 that drained down the sand bank. He sat deep on the foam ball of the tube, came flying out and smashed a huge, full-rail layback turn. In a last-minute attempt to run away with a victory Parkinson bagged a respectable 8.80, but Slater's lead proved insurmountable.

“The three top seeds -- Joel, myself and Mick -- all finished in the top three spots and Michel (Bourez) had a great event too,” said Slater afterward. “Momentum shifts throughout each season and a lot can happen.”

“When Kirra is doing what it’s doing out there today, it doesn’t feel like an event,” Parkinson said. “I had some great waves and a lot of fun, and to get to do it with the singlet on is icing on the cake. I appreciate all the local support out here today and runner-up is a good start to the season. Bring on Bells.”

The day got underway with the semifinals, which were every bit as dramatic as the final. In the first semi Parkinson opened with a 10-point ride that left Michel Bourez in a hole that he’d never be able to recover from. Ultimately the third-place finish was the best Quik Pro Gold Coast result of the Tahitian’s career and he came away feeling very good about the start to his season.

“It was such a hard heat against Parko,” said Bourez. “He’s a local and he got a 10 on his first wave. It was kind of embarrassing for me as I was waiting and sitting out there for too long and Joel was able to catch a lot of waves. It’s alright, though. It’s my best result at this event. I feel great, my boards are going well and I can’t wait for Bells.”

In semifinal number two Slater went back and forth with Mick Fanning (pictured above on the 2012 Tour in Rio), who desperately wanted to beat the 11-time world champ. Saving the best for last, Slater locked into a ten-point ride to earn himself a berth in the final.

“It’s a tough way to go out but you can’t be too upset when you put together a heat like that,” said Fanning. “I had a really good start and put in some solid scores. Kelly just did his ‘Kelly Thing’ and got that incredible 10 and really put himself back in the hunt. Shame I couldn’t get to the Final with Joel, but it’s a good start to the year so I’ll refocus and get ready for Bells.”

It’s another couple of weeks before the tour heads across Australia for the Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach, but whispers of the upcoming world title race are already swirling about.

For Slater’s role in it all, he says, “It’s probably the most talented field that has ever been on tour and there are nine more events. I’m committed to the tour this season.”

As a man who’s always thrived on finding new ways to challenge himself, Slater may just have found the fuel to his fire that he was looking for. But as the final day of the Quiksilver Pro proved, Fanning, Parkinson, Bourez and the rest the guys on tour are going to be there pushing him every bit of the way.

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