Kelly Slater won the Billabong Pro Tahiti in clean double overhead waves that produced one of the greatest surf contests in competitive surfing history. The waves were so massive that the contest was actually called off Saturday because the swell was too big, a reason for not running a contest unheard of in the ASP World Tour.
And Slater, the greatest surfer to ever ride a board, was there tackling extremely challenging conditions at Teahupo'o to endure backhand barrel after wipeout after backhand barrel after snapped board after backhand barrel after being sucked over the falls after backhand barrel to win his 47th career surf contest. The greatest ambassador the sport of surfing could ever have defeated Josh Kerr in the semifinals before taking down Australian goofy footer Owen Wright 18.43 to 17.10 in a thrilling final that left Wright disappointed and Slater yet again a winner at an ASP World Tour Event, covering over two decades of sheer dominance.
"I felt like I finally hit my stride in the Semifinals this morning," said Slater. "In the Final, I fell on a couple of waves that were maybe better than what I ended up getting scored on. It put the pressure on me, and took the pressure off him (Wright). He got that really big one at the end that could have gotten pretty close to the score. These are the best conditions this event has ever run in. It's been a phenomenal week."
Slater takes over the mantle previously held by the late Andy Irons, who won the event last year. "You know Andy won last year, and I had my last heat here with him, " said a choked up Slater. "There's a lot of things that are really meaningful in it for me. Kind of a bookend for me and Andy. To win these events back-to-back is really nice."
The win catapulted Slater atop the ASP World Tour Rankings, as the previous top five were all eliminated in the first three rounds of the contest. The defending 10-Time World Champion is now in the driver's seat for an unprecedented 11th World Title.
"It's one of those weird events where you have to scramble through the early rounds," said Slater. "Every year at this event, there are few of the top guys that lose in the early rounds and you have to scramble if you want a result here. You have to be in tune with the tides, swell direction and everything to make sure you get those waves that get you the score."
This is what the ASP World Tour has always envisioned itself being. A competitive surfing association that showcases the world's greatest surfers at the world's great surf locations in the world's greatest surf conditions. Everything came together for an unbelievable surf contest that showed everyone picture-perfect waves with the world's greatest surfer winning the event in thrilling fashion. Words can only give the contest a limited amount of justice. The photos and highlight video slideshow provide the rest.
Congratulations to 39-year-old Kelly Slater, winner of the Billabong Pro Tahiti. The ASP World Tour moves to New York, New York, home of the debut edition of the Quiksilver Pro New York. The contest window opens September 5th and closes September 15th.
Bonus videos. The first two are from the day the contest was called off due to the swell being too large. With French Polynesia issuing a 24 hour Code Red advisory preventing watercraft from legally being in the ocean, a group of surfers brought out personal watercrafts for Teahupo'o tow sessions in heavy waves measuring over 20 feet that were crashing onto shallow reef. Naturally, some of the world's greatest surfers came out to play.
This video features some of the nastiest wipeouts from the Billabong Pro Tahiti. The wipeout at the 1:18 mark takes the cake.
The remaining highlights are from day nine of the Billabong Pro Tahiti, featuring some more amazing surfing by the world's greatest surfers. Including one defending 10-Time ASP World Champion Kelly Slater.
To read about Kelly Slater's first time surfing Maverick's, his nastiest wipeouts, what Slater enjoys doing beyond competitive surfing and more, all in his own words, purchase the new book Dogwild & Board: Stories, Interviews and Musings from a Surf Journalist.
Follow Cyrus Saatsaz on Twitter: www.twitter.com/InstructorCyrus