Slater Wins In Tahiti

The 10-time World Champ claims victory over Owen Wright

| posted on August 29, 2011

Kelly Slater and Owen Wright, with plenty of reason to smile. Photo: Joli

When I saw that the final day of the Billabong Pro had dropped into that tricky 4- to 6-foot range, I knew Kelly’s experience and perfect technique was going to prove too much for the rest of the World Tour. The only real chance of defeating him came in the opening heat of the day when he broke his board on a crap wave. Switching to a brand new board, he figured it out quickly, smashing Wilko in the process. That tweaked-out little four-fin of Slater’s turned into his magic carpet for the remainder of the day, generating tremendous speed as he pumped through section after section. While Kelly waited for a potential final against Owen (truth be told, it was always going to be an Owen vs. Kelly final) the other side of the draw bore witness to the best heats of the day.

Travis Logie has been around the World Tour for quite some time now, long enough to be considered a veteran. All the mayhem involved in him getting to Tahiti coupled with the resulting massive swell proved to be a great catalyst for Travis to launch himself over the falls on anything that moves. That action saw him tally some amazing scores, including the highest of the quarterfinals, at a blistering 18.07 out of 20 against a shockingly quick learner in the form of Brett Simpson. If Brett had dragged his ass more instead of letting go on one bomb, we may have seen a different result.

In the semifinal that saw Logie matchup against Owen Wright, the brute strength displayed by Owen was just too much for Travis to overcome. To the 6’3″ paddling machine, Teahupoo at this size was almost playful. Leaving his drops to the last second, extending his lanky frame down the line in a flash of big pumps, Owen was a man on a mission. For Travis, it was nevertheless a great showing that saw him come from way back to now possibly getting back on the WT after New York. After such a gutsy performance, I’m positive that hordes of new fans will be hoping he qualifies.

Kelly’s semifinal heat against Kerr was one of the slowest of the entire event. During Bruce’s session before the final, not one proper set broke. The dying swell held out a couple gems for the final, though. And in the end, the win would go to Kelly and his uncanny ability to sniff out excellent rides all over the reef at Teahupoo. While many surfers may have a spot—a certain wave they wait on that speaks to them—that’s not the case for Kelly. He adapts to what his brain tells him the ocean is going to do. Had there been anyone else in that heat and Owen would have been your Billabong Pro champion. But the combination of Kelly’s innate skills and high scores saw Owen falter. The most talented goofyfoot tube-rider since the Hobgoods, Owen pushed Kelly to the limit in his very first experience with real Teahupoo. It’s scary to think of him getting better every year out there, much in the same fashion as Kelly.

With this win, Kelly sits deceivingly back at sixth place on the WT rankings, but if you take out everyone’s two throwaways, you’ll see him jump to first. Owen also now finds himself in a position to strike from ninth, with two low throwaways of his own. Looking into the future I see a possible epic Hurricane Katia swell for New York, then the always high-performance event at Lowers just right around the corner. Expect to see both Owen and Kelly battling it out with the rest of the Top 10 in the hunt for the 2011 World Title.

With a standout performance at Teahupoo, Brett Simpson has proven himself equally capable at 2-foot or 12. Photo: Joli

Between the semifinal and the final, Bruce Irons and friends payed homage to the late Andy Irons. Photo: Joli

Yep, he's officially that much closer to making it 11. Photo: Joli

Although he's the toughest draw in any contest, Kelly has proven himself especially lethal at Teahupoo. Photo: Joli

No, you're not seeing doubles. Kelly's brother, Steven, was on hand to watch Kelly take the win. Photo: Joli

A story for the ages, Travis Logie's campaign at Teahupoo proved that the South African has the grit to handle any situation. Photo: Joli

  • Dirt

    Once again Kelly wins without coming close to being the best surfer of the event. Sometimes the extra point per ride given to kelly is too hard to overcome for his opponents.

  • Dirtsack

    True, he wasn’t the most in form surfer..But he was the best competitor..Take Owens tubes next to Slaters….Insane tubes..But they were going frontside, not backhand…

  • Jsim1

    Great surfing Kelly. It’s time to move on now. We all know that when you want, you can win. Let the new guys duke it out now.

  • Danny

    “Once again Kelly wins without coming close to being the best surfer of the event. Sometimes the extra point per ride given to kelly is too hard to overcome for his opponents”.- True. But in that contest I don’t think Kelly was over scored or he’s opponents underscored. It was kelly doing he’s thing, that is winning heats and contests. Haven’t you understand yet that Kelly doesn’t have to be the best surfer to win? Or that Taj can be the best surfer of the event (not that, in general) and probably he won’t win? And I’m not talking about the judges favoring Kelly (that, as you mentioned, a lot of times happens) is about know how to win. Some guys just have in them (Kelly, Irons, Fanning) others don’t (Taj, Parko)

  • Dirt

    @Danny. Its true what you say about knowing how to win, Kelly knows how to win for sure. The unfair part is that when a heat is close and could go either way, it always goes Kellys way. Some feel kelly deserves these little advantages because he’s the champ but many disagree. Its not fair that its his name that gets him over the line. BTW I watched the event from start to finish and nobody was given a two wave total of 18.43 for so little.

  • whamo

    Jeremy Flores and Owen Wright were the two best surfers in the event. I’m with Dirt. Kelly didn’t deserve to win in my opinion.

  • Willis

    Kelly Slater is the best! Not only that, you haters probably don’t even surf!

  • Duds

    Good on ya Kelly. As long as youre pushing the rest of the field to surf better, I cant think of a better ambassador to lead the ASP.

    With regard to the comments about him being over-scored, I disagree. He was catching more waves, standing taller, and doing things others have trouble comprehending. I’m guessing Owen isn’t bitching (nor should he, he killed it).

  • Marcelo

    Comp is comp
    free-surf is free-surf

    LIKE OR NOT… and i do like a lot, Congrats Kelly

  • Marcelo

    sorry but forgot to say one thing, KELLY was indeed the best surfer at US open couple weeks ago…

  • fife

    kelly gets underscored an equal amount i think! alot of times the best surfer of the event does not win. Flores for example should have won this contest.

  • Maleko

    I thought Owen’s two waves were better and that he should have won the final.

  • Guano

    Kelly will keep winning until somebody steps up to the plate. Unfortunately, that person recently passed away and that person also helped give Kelly the competition he needed to get where he is. If you take away the best how do you know you have really reached the top? It would be like telling top veteran athletes in other professional sports that they should retire to give the young guys a chance, really? Good on you Kelly. What’s wrong boys can’t beat the 39yr old?

  • Reality

    Dirt, Whammo, you dipsh*ts, that’s not even the point. Kelly himself said he wasn’t the “form surfer” of the event. But did he win all of his heats decisively? Yes. Were any of his heat wins questionable? No. Kelly always knows exactly what he has to do to win a heat, period. If his competitor has 12 points, he’ll get a 12.1. If his competitor has 19.5 points, he’ll get 19.6. He just rises to the occasion, again and again and again, and that’s all he has to do. Also, a lot of his heats didn’t pulse like others did. But if you think Kelly doesn’t f*cking dominate at Teahupoo, you’re a fool. The guy rules the place.

  • Pat

    No one and I mean no one was more relaxed, more stylish and more ballsy then Kelly at this event. Sure there were a lot of heavy moments but so many of the greats fell away (parko, fanning, hobgoods, jordy, Dane wasn’t even there). That left Kelly in the drivers seat with a lot of fuel still in his tank during the finals. Owen was awesome…especially in Round 4..jeez what a couple of pounders he pulled through!!! But once again Kelly showed syle, flash, calmness and even playfullness in what for a lot of people was some scary humps of harm rolling down that reef. The two stand outs to me were Josh Kerr and Simbo….both were style masters. And of course the Andy Iron prize deservedly went to a guy I have a totally new profound respect for. Viva la France Jeremy. Wonderful webcast by the way too!! Just totally professional all the way.

  • Rolf Gates

    I am inspired by Kelly’s ability to do what he loves so well. I belive his example enriches all of us. Drive on K. S. !!

  • Rick

    wow, spot on words on the last 3 comments, that´s all

  • whamo

    Kelly did go extremely fast on his Quad. Kelly did some turns at the end of the wave where others kicked out. Kelly did dare to ride waves that others let go by. But Wright’s surfing was incredible. That double coverup really impressed me. It’s really hard to get tubed, stall, and have a section dump on you, and make it, like he did. But the best surfing of all was on the tow day. That one guy, Aaron? He got the most insane wave, and made it, I’ve ever seen. It was crazy how all those guys and girls were towing into huge and mean and nasty closeouts for about an hour. That was totally nuts. So many of these guys ripped. It was surfing at its best, for sure.

  • Bobbo

    You don’t have to be the best surfer of the event, you just need to be the winner. That’s why contests are contests. Gabe Kling won Trestles two years ago without being in the top 10 best surfers in the contest, but he won. Kelly, like Curren, sometimes got a .5 nod, but at times they got underscored because of expectations, so it all evens out.

  • Dirt

    I realise that i am pushing shit uphill by announcing these truths on an American mag website. Check out ASL mags website for Nick Caroll’s post comp comments, he’s one of the worlds most respected surfing commentators.

  • Jose Melendez

    Although I do want Kelly to move on and retire from the CT I was still impressed by his performance. Hands down he is still the best surfer in the world and the best athlete to ever live. Kelly won because in the final his waves were more square than Owens and because he was on his backhand.

  • Matt O’Brien

    So much Kelly Hate… why? enjoy it while its here! When its gone its gone. Remember the tour after Slater Bailed AND Before Andy Became ANDY-F****ing-IRONS? It was not much fun – I know I have wasted waaaay to many years on this crap. So again, let’s just sit back relax and enjoy one of the true masters of movement. cheers.

  • Mik

    Kelly’s comment that he let a wave go while paddling with priority, because he “could hear that his competitor had stopped paddling” is the biggest insight into why he’s a 10-going-on-11 x’s World Champ. Slater is just an amazingly Self-Aware / Environmentally Aware individual. He notices everything. He prepares better. He trains better. His nutritional knowledge is better, his commitment to health and performance over partying is clearly a huge advantage. And best of all: he’s respectful of everyone else. He just glows. I am an AI / Bruce guy in many respects, but as far as competitive surfing goes, there is no one on tour even close to where Kelly is mentally, physically, and emotionally.

  • Reality

    Dirt, Nick Carroll is a heavily biased f*cktard who simply can’t give Kelly full credit due to his overwhelming desire to have an Aussie champion. Even a few people on the ASL site are roasting him for it. He is a grouchy old f*ck that is bitter because he never could make it himself. It must have been a jagged pill for him to swallow to admit Kelly legitimately smoked every hot up-and-coming ripper in the world at the US Open the week before, and now he just cooly goes out and wins a tube contest the next week.

    I’m with Matt (and simply can’t understand Jose): no matter how dominant the guy is, he’s pushing 40 and won’t be around forever. He’s got enough money to just disappear and never be seen again if he wanted to. So, just enjoy his surfing now while you still can.

  • Dirt

    FYI. i DON”T hate Kelly. He is the greatest surfer of all time. I was raised on KS in black and white, i love the way he just blew away those old school aussies in the 90’s, back then nobody could touch him. I would like to remember him that way. however his last couple of world titles have been won on the back of his name, some feel kelly has earned these bonuses, not me. I just feel sad for Owen, he has been so screwed over since he started the tour, he beat kelly last year a trestles, he beat adrano in brasil and i feel it coulda gone either way at chopes[ it went kellys]. You can see in the after contest interviews that owen has realised that he can beat kelly but he can’t beat the judges. I just hope those mental scars don’t hurt him, like they have so badly hurt mick, taj, and parko.

  • Reality

    Dirt, Owen is a likeable and highly marketable young guy. I’m sure the marketing machines in the surf industry would be just as happy if Owen won the next world title as the would be if Dane or Jordy won it. Probably MORE so, because he’s a level headed, intelligent and humble kid, not some cocky gorilla or aloof drifter. The judges know this, and ARE influenced by this, so I don’t think they are deliberately screwing him.

    You say he’s been so screwed “since he started the tour”: Mate, he’s only been on the tour a year and a half. His first year he won Rookie of the Year, and this year he’s rated 5th. It’s not exactly like he’s sucking arse. I can definitely see your point on the Adriano decision, but that was hometown judging. Teahupoo is neither Kelly or Owen’s hometown, and he definitely did NOT beat Kelly in the quarters at Trestles. But, mate, he’s only 21 and everybody likes him (judges, surf industry, fellow pros, etc.). A world title, probably several, is inevitable.

    As for Kelly’s last two world titles being “won on the back of his name”, I firmly disagree with you. He won like 6 contests the year he won his 9th, and he clearly was the best surf the year he won his 10th. I don’t see any fellow competitors challenging the legitimacy of these titles. They just hope he retires soon so they can win one.

    He’s still the best surfer in the world, easily. Just enjoy it while it lasts.

  • Dirt

    Reality. Enjoy what? Kelly holding the trophy without actually winning! You say that you “don’t see kelly’s fellow competitors chalenging the legitimacy of his titles”. Now i know for sure that you don’t know what your talking about. Kelly’s 10th upset plenty of em, americans included. BTW Owen smashed kelly at trestles last year, the judges fucked that up. I heard an asp judge say so. [off the record of course].

  • Danny

    Simply put (not american, I’m a brazilian BTW) Kelly is our Michael Jordan and as Reality said, I want to enjoy this guy in the ASP in he’s remaining years, ‘cos I tell you, when he’s gone will be a huge loss for professional Surf. I understand and agree that the judges sometimes favors Kelly, and that is no excuse for that shit, but this is kind of small for what he did for our sport, that’s just my opinion.

    Futhermore, the truth is, crazy as It is, in the last 15 years the only guys who won the ASP besides were: Occy (Kelly not on tour), Sunny (Kelly not on tour), CJ (in a small season for the 9/11 and kelly not on tour). The only in almost 2 decades of pro surf that really was a threat for KS was Andy Irons and Mick in a smaller degree.

    So, Is it kelly just too good or the other guys are not that great competitors? A little bit of both I would guess. The only guy I see with the same drive and competition skills that can come close to mach Kellys is Adriano de Souza, but I reckon he’s not as talent like Taj or Parko for exemple. But I tell you, if Taj or Parko had Adriano’s competitors skills, I’m pretty sure that one of them would be champion by now

  • Jerry Curl

    You’re an idiot, Dirt.

  • daniel

    too many comments from too many people (including myself) who would crap at the site of these Teahupo barrells……….apparently those who cant surf, type “insightful” commentary.
    Kelly is king until dethroned……….and with good reason.

  • Rick

    The best wave of the contest:!

    Kelly is amazing although he did not appear in jeffereys bay he’s going to win the 11!

  • Not a hater just the truth hurts

    Kelly is the best surfer in the world no doubt but I feel that Owen won that final when you compare his two waves to Kelly,s.
    Kelly’s first wave was a white water not so open and clean wave as Owens and he got a 9.5 vs Owens 9.27 and Owens wave was clearly better.
    Then Kelly got a small Kind wave that didn’t barrel in the take-off but he managed
    to get a chandalier at the end and he got an 8. something, in the other hand
    Owen got another takeoff barrel, pull out, hit a bottom under the lip at the end and
    got like a 6, I feel the scores should of went the other way around.
    And yes Kelly is the best but he gets help in a lot of heats before going on to winning the events, at the US OPEN he got a 7 against a Dylan Graves and he clearly said in the interview that the judges were really kind to him for that 7.
    So whatever, lesson learned is: Sports are a business and contests are bullshit.

  • Marcus Fender

    I have never been a fan of scoring waves / rides. I have never believed there was a “best surfer” in the world.
    My opinion has changed a little:
    There’s no Second Best Surfer in the world.
    Kelly Slater’s surfing is in a class all its own.

  • fernando

    KS is the best surfer and deserved the win not only for his superior performace and knowledge but for doing it with style which implies making the difficult look easy, which as a matter of fact more often than not mekes judges underscore him. Hafters do not notice how hard and critical those moves are because they almost look efortless.

  • Dale Herd

    The fools got schooled. Kelly goes over backwards while Owen has to hold up and fails to get around on the wave that could have won. Kelly looks LIKE a fool, but who got schooled? You were not only seeing great surfing, but great thinking. Of course he won. In a gunfight it doesn’t matter who’s the fastest but who’s dead at the end.

  • Grant K

    A little bit of truth in what you say Dirt (emphasis on little). However, KS in my opinion is undoubtably still the best contest surfer in the world. A point I’m not happy with as a South African, mainly because I would love to see Jordy take a title.

    Your point (in some parts) is well made though. Judging is to a large degree emotionally bias and I believe that does affect judges scores subconsiously. However, we can watch webcasts all day long but remember it is deceptive. The judging tower has a better perspective and the depth of sight allows them to see how critical maneouvres actually are.
    Bottom line – they are the professionals (the judges) and we get to pick them apart. I’m reasonably certain theat they would disagree with us on most points aside from a drunken ‘off the record’ pub conversation.

  • Pingback: Humpday’s Happenings & Hyperlinks – 8/31/11 | Drofdarb Sports