Lowers Wrap-up

Shea Lopez sifts through the aftermath of the Hurley Lowers Pro

| posted on September 22, 2011


Three for three. Aided by the very real Owen/Kelly rivalry, that’s the roll the ASP is on as they ride a wave of favorable-to-epic conditions over the last three events. Pro surfing doesn’t get much more intriguing than the product we’re witnessing right now. Here’s a few surfers that have impressed me during Lowers as well as this latest string of events:

Brett Simpson:
It started for Simpo when he had his balls finally drop at Teahupoo. Then he surfed equally well or better than everyone on tour in NY. And by the time he came home to surf Lowers, Brett looked to be a legit world title contender…for next year when the judges realize he’s surfing at a level few surfers can match. If his ex-NFL player father keeps coming to events, they may feel the pressure to begin scoring him more fairly at an accelerated pace. In Brett’s loss at Lowers, he put on an amazing display of consistently radical surfing on every wave he rode.

Josh Kerr:
Kerr’s consistency is very different from the norm. For Josh it is all about his ability/inability to incorporate linking maneuvers between the impossible moves he pulls with his eyes closed. If it wasn’t for Kelly putting the brakes on Kerr in NY and Lowers, Kerr would be very close to the top spot right now. I predict that he or Julian Wilson will win an event before this year is over.

Julian Wilson:
Who knew that behind the puka shells and Paul Fisher smile that such a serious competitor would emerge from the bubbly grommet of the Sunshine Coast. With power and tricks galore, Julian has been simply out-surfing every opponent he comes across—when he’s given a chance. The entire surf world cried when Julian was deemed to have interfered with Owen on the very first wave of their semifinal heat, negating the tremendous build-up for what was billed to be the heat of the event. The rivalry between Julian and Owen is going to be around for a very long time.

Before losing part of his mind in a drubbing at the hands of John Florence, Alejo impressed in Tahiti, went off in NY, and looked poised to keep it going through Lowers. It will be interesting to see how Alejo recovers emotionally. The Brazilians are extremely passionate, and I’ve seen it work for and against them as the pressure builds during a season/career. Think Neco and Peterson for prime examples of both.

John Florence went about his business so calmly that he almost sneaked up on Owen and sent him home. If Owen’s last ride wasn’t on the wave of the day, John would have won the heat on top of out-surfing him as well. If Hossegor even closely resembles last year, you can pencil John into the final now.

Medina and Pupo both have a frontside that is almost unmatchable. When Lowers decided to turn into mostly rights the final two days, those two lost their advantage and lost two very closely fought heats. The conditions may not always suit them, but when it does, watch in amazement.

What’s next?
This leaves us with the two horse race between Kelly and Owen that has been set up magnificently after three consecutive finals between them. With Owen feeling right at home now on the WT, his confidence and form has been unmatched. Only Kelly’s freaky, seemingly random heat strategy has been able to stop Owen’s tremendous roll. Basically Kelly goes about his business, giving the judges and his competitors as many different samples of the Kelly package as possible. During that process he confuses his opponent, while giving the judges a wide array of fodder to feed on. He usually reaches a victorious climax by vanquishing his opponent with a perfectly timed knock-out-blow they have no answer for.

He displayed this technique masterfully in the Lowers final with mid-heat adjustments and poise under pressure—passing on the first wave of a modest set as the final drew to a close, then sealing the deal with the top score of the final on the second. His ability to go out with a basic game plan and then adjust on the fly has him inching closer and closer to number 11. But like a super computer, the more experience Owen gains against the King, the less he will fall for the same tricks. At Lowers, Owen’s only mistake was waiting too long to unleash the more impressive, high-risk moves he can pull off with alarming regularity. Up against Kelly you have to come out with both guns blazing and never give him an opportunity to catch you sleeping.

If it wasn’t for Kelly, Owen would’ve just won the last three. If it wasn’t for the floater heard around the world, Owen would have won in Brazil earlier in the year too. Owen is that good.

Kelly is still the best, but with four events left, who’s it going to be?

  • Zach

    Thank you for the recognition of Brett Simpson and how amazingly he surfed that event.

  • Coach

    What’s the story on alejos meltdown? He imploded, but why?

  • Fishboard Twin

    Why innovation and progression does not apply to Kelly Slater? In the last wave he did the same thing he did in 90´s. He had strength and speed but lacked innovation and progression. Owen filled ALL the criteria in the last wave and got a lower score. For me Owen deserved to win the heat.

  • Kyle

    Kelly gets overscore all the time!! and that’s what happened again

  • Glenn Martyn

    Kelly is a machine. His strength, control, and bag of tricks has improved with the evolution of surfing. One would think with all these kids throwing their boards in the air that Kelly wouldn’t have kept up all these years. But he has shown solid consistency over his competition round after round, year after year. And he definitely looks poised to pull in his 11th World Championship in 2011 and a 12th in 2012 if he wants. He is in my mind the best he’s ever been with no signs of weakness. He could very well be the most enduring top performing athlete the world has ever or will ever see. Congratulations Kelly.

  • RH

    Fishboard Twin, how is grabbing what was basically an ollie (board under one) (as opposed to, say, ollieing into a grab… board next to one) progressive? Just cuz Owen ticked a box didn’t automatically make it good. (And just cuz a board’s a Twin doesn’t AUTOMATICALLY make it good… though being a Fish almost automatically makes it unprogressive.)

  • Fishboard Twin

    HR the same can be said of Kelly Slater. Just like Parko, he is be doing the same old hack again, again and again. His moves are fast, strong and fast. I will not disagree. But there are not progressive or innovative. His moves are almost the same as they were 5 years ago. In two feet waves these hacks should not count as many points. Again he won a contest without showing the best surf in the competition. Guys like Owen, Julian and Medina who are reinventing the surf should get the highest scores for what showed in those conditions.

  • Jud

    Interesting to note: it could be argued that Owen could have won in Tahiti and yesterday at Lowers, but nobody would argue that Kelly should have won in NY. An OW fan could make the case that he should have won the last three strait events. He appears to be the next AI without the negative energy.

  • alex

    i am so tired of Kelly’s waves being just enough points to put him through. This win should have been Owen’s.

  • Jud

    The subjective nature of surfing (all judged sports) is more difficult now than it ever was. Consider Josh Kerr’s varial whatever he did in round 4, I believe. He landed it, but it wasn’t pretty (flapped and was switch which had to be switched back). Speed and flow were sacrificed. He got a 7 something which I think was a good call by the judges, but I could imagine some people thinking it was underscored. The final could have gone either way; they both surfed fantastic. Owen’t airs were more frequent and higher than Kelly’s, but Kelly surfs with more power and speed. When two guys like OW and KS are surfing their best and without mistakes (unlike Kelly in the NY final), it’s a pick’em.

  • Baz

    Sure Owen landed a nice clean backside air on his final wave, but it was about 3 inches above the lip – pretty low risk move IMO. Kelly’s first hack was full commitment. Kelly’s proved he can win going to the air (NY semi vs Taj), but he’s still got the power game over the new generation. His variety is second to none and it’s what keeps him on top.
    There were undoubtedly a number of dubious calls in the comp though. Parkos final 9 in round 4 against Julian was a joke, it was a 7 at best.

  • Stucco

    If people are debating this one, they will debate anything, just for the sake of debating or being different or being negative. It really wasn’t even that close.

  • pissed off

    I am sick to the stomach. The judges are old kooks and should be sacked. How many times can we let them screw up? They have to go!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Matt OBrien

    Thanks Shea for the breakdown, gottta agree wit it. Some great comments (some no so much) but what I noticed about KS10’s surfing is that while he can do the Airs n Grabs (mindlessly even) he can also DO THE POWER TURNS/CARVES/HACKS. That to me is the Big difference. While the new breed (what are we calling em anyways?) can pull full rotators and got all that hand-jive, they are lacking a bit in the power depo – they will get it, just as KS10 and his gen did. BUT the real difference is KS10 has the POWER AND THE AiRS/GRAB GAME in his arsenal combined. As for the comments about “not being best surfer in event”, well it’s not about getting the best heat scores or highest wave score (unless needed to win a heat) its all about winning the last heat of the day – the finals. Every other heat is to build a rhythm throughout event, with a peak in the finals with You (KS10/OW in this case) ON TOP. great event and can’t wait for France. 10/4 good buddies…

  • Daniel

    Brett Simpson deserved that win over Parko. Parko is so highscored. That 9 against Julian was a real joke . I’d like to know if the judges are still real surfers. Criteria is so subjective, I know, but why for some surfers it’s more “objective” in certain circunstances?

  • dipy

    ya conner got robbed…

  • shea

    After watching some of the heats again today, it became obvious that everyone surfed exceptional. But Kelly just has such a better command of every wave he rides. Certain guys have their moves, Kelly has every move.

  • Forrest Gump

    Stop bitching on the judges. They have a tough job. Do you have any idea how hard it is to appear impartial when your true agenda is keeping Kelly on tour and showing up for events [by letting him win]. That shit’s not easy. Especially with a guy like Owen trying to ruin the asp’s bald headed golden pay cheque.

  • Ben

    Gotta agree with the judges on this one. Kelly can do everything that Owen can, but the reciprocal is not true. Slater’s turns are completely superior to anything on tour, and he moves seamlessly between them. Owen is a great surfer, and will become a worthy rival in the future, but this year is far and away Kelly’s.

  • Forrest Gump

    BTW Brett Simpo rips

  • Dirt

    @ Ben. You are a douche, O can do plenty that Kelly can’t, he can see the lost keys on top of the refrigerator, he can enjoy a conversation with a hair dresser plus boost huge airs

  • Fishboard Twin

    Kelly can not do the same maneuvers that Owen, Julian and Gabriel are doing. And when he does something like the judges give you good scores just because he is Kelly Slater. Nobody, journalists and athletes, want to speak the truth to avoid antagonizing the “king”. So BS.

  • Ben

    Dirt, lay off the invective (look it up, most high schoolers don’t know it). And yes, Kelly does all of the new airs, only difference is that he employs flawless rail work as part of his transition. You work for Rip Curl Durt? Maybe hand out stickers at their comps?

  • Marcelo

    There are still people that think surf is skating, well, i tell ya, it is NOT. Is not all about silly tricks, you gotta surf the wave like a man, Gabriel Medina has a lot work to do before start winning heats.

    Nobody could match Kelly (on that board) that day, just true

  • Paul Harvey

    Nice breakdown Shea. The final was pretty simple; 2 exchanges on the same sets. Owen clearly got the raw deal on the first exchange and Kelly deserved the victory with the last exchange. Kelly’s last wave was by far the best ridden wave of the final.

  • Doc

    The only reason people can say Kelly is doing the same maneuvers as he did in the 90’s, is because he is still agile, healthy and athletic enough to be around and competing. How can he not be doing the same hacks and carves as in the 90’s, when those are the basics of surfing a wave? His surfing and innovation is worthy of and deserves way more recognition. His foundational bottom-turn is nearly unmatched. My hat is off to Kelly.


    Kelly rips and that is the way it has been since Menehunes, he is progressive, Shea can tell you, Slater has been doing Barrel Rolls, 360 & airs since the Jax bch ESA regionals at age 12 , (he actually surf boyz and won), as for these “Progressive Tricks” expect for about four maneuvers out there pretty much of the airs where pull off by C. Fletcher , J. Madison & crew, & you see the influence in all the younger guys surfing (which is sick), but keep thinking Kelly cannot do a Varial.
    A guy who skates made a good point, “These air are sick ,but land like that on a skater, Snowboard, or anything you can fly thru the air and you got a one way trip to the Hospital” his point, Each Maneuver Must be pulled off effortlessly flowing with the Transition, not landing on the top and rolling back in the wave, the same is to be said for Power Surfing when executed correctly, you get the score.
    in saying that, Owen Wright is a BEAST, I said two year ago OW would win that World Title soon, he may just dominate for years to come. One thing OW shows us is the JR. Pro is a waste of time and talent.

  • Fishboard Twin

    What I think is wrong that innovation and progression does not apply to judge Kelly Slater in all waves. Only applies to judge the other surfers. There are two weights and two measures. The problem is not 90´s maneuvers. The problem is to ONLY make 90´s maneuvers in 3 feet waves. And it is clearer when you take a surfer on the final that makes combos and mixing power with progressive surfing. Kelly has not completed all the criteria in the last wave as lacking innovation and progressiveness. Owen mixed all the criteria. 3 feet waves should not be judged only on the basis of power surfing, not just the progressiveness too. Should be required both together to get the best score.

  • Doc

    Regarding the last waves of Owen and Kelly:

    Yes, Owen showed more innovation and progression because he did an aerial, but what about the degree of difficulty?

    With all due respect to Owen, he is a phenomenal surfer with speed, power, rail-to-rail transition and spontaneity with aerials, etc., but the degree of difficulty in his backside aerial followed by a vertical off the lip did not compare, in my opinion, to Kelly’s full committed frontside under-the-lip power carve layback followed by a vertical off the top busting out all 3 fins (since he chose to ride and “old-school thruster”).

    Not that degree of difficulty trumps innovation and progression, but it all has to be taken into consideration. In my opinion, Kelly clearly won.

    The real controversy was in Simpo’s heat. I think Simpo deserved to win.

  • Dirt

    @ Doc. Kelly’s layback snap was not that good. It was a typical Kelly pizza throw. If you think kelly “clearly won”, you would have to be a Kelly cheer leader. It was close. An example of a clear victory would be Owen v Kelly NY. When heats are close the judges will almost always go with the crowd favourite or the highest ranked surfer, Kellys wins at Chopes and Trestles can be attributed to this.

  • m@Rk

    LMAO!! How do some of you guys say that Kelly can’t surf progressive? Did you NOT see his mind blowing backside fullly rotated air at the US Open? Did you guys NOT see his similar full rotation to embarrass Taj in NY? WAKE UP you haters. How can you even come close to comparing Medina to Kelly? That’s retarded, Medina doesn’t have even a FRACTION of Kelly’s power, flow and wizard like heat strategy and has a LOOOOOONG way to guy before coming even close. “Tricks are for kidz”, but a COMPLETE repertoire including power, style, flow, commitment AND the tricks included is what it takes to be a champ. Owen is nipping at Kelly’s heals in that dpt., but the rest of the pack have literally half their career ahead of them to come anywhere even close to that *overall* level. A lot of you are in denial that Kelly’s still “has it”…. which is totally understandable… LOL I can’t believe it either, but I see it with my own 2 20/20 vision eyes. Wake up haters.

  • Shea

    Very true @m@Rk

  • woody mullins

    some people don’t know how to surf rail to rail, or put power into turns. watch how smooth slater finishes maneuvers. right in to clean bottom turns and the next move. is the tour going to die with out slater? not hardly. it still went on when he retired before. don’t be so closed minded. go back and look at the final again but not with a closed mind. slater does this because he loves it, and he seems to feed on negative things and people. so keep up the fuel!

  • surfcheck

    Point is Kelly will lauch a huge alley opp in the last wave of a final and win it because of the bravado of the move. And mindtrip to make Rio meaningless with his biggest ever oop that made the contest meaningless. And then NY vs Taj. Who else has the cajones?

    Owen’s airs weren’t as risky as Slaters. He has them too down. Or as integrated into the wave. And then there is the Michael Jorden affect. Refs don’t call fouls on superstars and Kelly has (deservedly won) that staus. The kids are great but have to be way better to move the bar.

  • surfndoug

    “Ya gotta beat the champ”…until someone does Kelly will keep winning. Hats off to Slater!!!!!!!!!!

  • Mike

    Owen is rad. He obviously shows great command of the wave and his equipment. Kelly is still better than Owen…right now. Same cake, better frosting folks. And, frankly, if the “new school” was where it’s at, then where are Jordy and Dane? Same potential, but coffee is for closers. Kelly closes…