The script for the 2011 Rip Curl Pro Search San Francisco probably didn't go down the way Kelly Slater, or anyone else for that matter, pictured it. First Slater wins his 11th World Title on a perfect day at Ocean Beach. Then Slater discovers he didn't win his 11th World Title thanks to an egregious error by the ASP. Then Slater wins his 11th World Title again, this time in a subdued celebration on a cold, windy day. Then Slater is upset by 17-year-old Gabriel Medina of Brazil, who would go on to defeat Australian Joel Parkinson in the finals to win the Rip Curl Pro Search San Francisco.
Still, if you were a fan of surfing and wanted to see the world's best surfers tackle the strong currents, heavy waves and blustery conditions that often accompany Ocean Beach, chances are you weren't disappointed.
While the drama surrounding Kelly Slater's 11th World Title captured most of the attention, it was the incredible display of surfing at Ocean Beach that stole the show. Surfers like Slater, Medina, Parko, Taylor Knox and Josh Kerr humbled a lot of Ocean Beach regulars who rarely see the deep barrel rides and aerial displays that the pros did with relative ease. Without question, the thousands of spectators that assembled to watch the world's best surfers certainly didn't leave disappointed.
As for Slater, his San Francisco experience could be best described as a mixed bag. On one hand he won his 11th World Title here, and his first celebration was during an unbelievable day when Ocean Beach was offering perfect surfing conditions under clear, beautiful sunny skies with light offshore winds. The crowd went crazy and Slater had a blast later that evening drinking beer and bowling.
While it was Slater himself who discovered the ASP's mathematical error that resulted in Slater having to go back out and win another heat to make his 11th World Title official, out he went during a colder day with stronger currents and choppier waves to make sure that the chase wouldn't leave San Francisco. What did disappoint Slater a little though was losing in the quarterfinals to eventual contest winner Medina, resulting in finishing the contest tied for fifth place.
"I was totally out of sync, but got the job done earlier," said Slater shortly after his quarterfinal heat. "It's always nice to try and win the event if you're in it. I just couldn't put it together out there. I've had three fifths this year. I hate fifth places." Slater chuckled after that last comment, although given Slater's competitive drive he probably wasn't joking that much.
Slater did get a chance to talk about his experience in San Francisco. "I expected a little more fog than we had," said Slater, who has reportedly been staying in nearby Pacifica. "Basically it's about what I thought. We went and saw some of the sights, and went into the city a little bit so far. I think we're a little bit lucky with the water temp. It's a bit warmer than I think it usually is. I was surprised I didn't need booties or gloves. It was about what I thought wave wise, and it's been a good trip."
Slater is rumored to still be in the San Francisco area. Don't be surprised if you run into him in the city, or see him at Candlestick Park Sunday when the San Francisco 49ers host the New York Giants in a pivotal NFC Conference game.
Some other notes and thoughts as the Rip Curl Pro Search San Francisco has come to a close:
- One of the fascinating aspects of having an ASP World Tour contest in San Francisco was the old school feel of it. On the first day of the contest, with currents running extremely strong going north to south and no PWCs allowed, surfers like Adriano de Souza would catch waves going right, ride them as far in as they could, then run on the beach north before heading back into the water. This is what professional surfers used to do back in the '80s and '90s. Now, most ASP World Tour contests use PWCs to take surfers back to the lineup when currents become an issue. It was fun watching the surfers having to use their legs more than usual.
Photos and video highlights are from the final day of the Rip Curl Pro Search San Francisco. Congratulations to Gabriel Medina for winning the contest, and congratulations to Kelly Slater for winning his 11th ASP World Title in San Francisco.