Slater Wins US Open

Slater silences critics while Fitzgibbons wins her third world tour event of the year

| posted on August 07, 2011

After a roller coaster week of trying conditions, Kelly Slater and Sally Fitzgibbons stand victorious before the vast throng of humans. Photo: Ellis

After receiving heavy criticism for missing the Billabong Pro in J-Bay, Kelly Slater used surfing’s biggest stage to remind us all why he’s earned the right to do, well, whatever he chooses. Slater’s victory in front of a record crowd at Huntington Beach was his second US Open victory—his previous victory being way back in 1996.

While the majority of his heats, including the final, were won in convincing fashion, only Taj Burrow and Dusty Payne made Slater work for the silverware on the final day. Burrow and Slater’s Quarterfinal match-up saw the two go back and forth exchanging scores on multiple barrel rides. In the end, Slater’s rides were deemed to be .23 of a point better than Burrows’.

As the large crowd began to unwind following the Slater vs. Burrow battle, Slater and Dusty Payne immediately put the beach back into a frenzy. Dusty held the lead for the majority of the semifinal, but with less than 10 minutes remaining and needing a significant score to take the lead, Slater launched a giant backside 360-air that earned a 9.77—the highest single wave score of the event.

“I think Dusty wanted to kill me after that heat,” said Slater in a post-heat speech. He also praised the Payne’s progressive surfing repertoire: “Dusty rips, and he does some of the craziest moves in the world, like big upside down air-reverses, and when I got on tour that’s where I dreamed surfing would be—and it’s cool to still be here doing this.”

Following Slater’s win over Payne, 17-year-old San Clemente phenom Kolohe Andino sparred Australia’s Yadin Nicol in a close semifinal heat that came down to Andino’s final wave. Needing a 6.95 to overtake Nicol, Andino took his game to the air on a lined up inside wall and milked the wave for all it was worth, but still fell agonizingly short—receiving a 6.37.

Unfortunately for Yadin Nicol and the thousands of fans watching, the final was a decidedly more one-sided affair. Within minutes of the buzzer, Slater earned an 8.5 for a big frontside air-reverse and for several turns to the beach. Then on Slater’s third wave, and with 20 minutes still remaining, he got his second scoring wave—putting Nicol in combo land and all but solidifying his victory. Nicol went almost the whole heat without a wave—posting his first score with under five minutes remaining.

“I told Yadin he was lucky it was a 35 minute heat,” said a joking Slater in his victory speech. “No, but honestly when you’re that guy and you’re leading, you’re just hoping time runs out. And I was just getting really frustrated for Yadin, because he was sitting on the outside waiting for the bigger sets while I got the smaller ones.”

Regardless, Nicol’s second place finish will boost him up in the one world ranking’s, making his qualification for the World Tour after the mid-year reseeding far more likely.

In the Women’s Final, Sally Fitzgibbons had her work cut out for her against event Wildcard Lakey Peterson, who had just defeated 2011 World Champion Carissa Moore in her semifinal heat—putting an end to Moore’s streak of six-straight final appearances. Peterson, who also won this year’s Women’s US Open Pro Junior event on Saturday, got off to a good start receiving a 5.33 on her first wave and keeping her within striking distance of Fitzgibbons, who opened with a 5.67.

Feeling the pressure of the crowd and seeking her third World Tour victory of the year, World No. 2 Sally Fitzgibbons put the pressure back on Peterson by dropping a 7.5 on her second wave. Finding herself in an unfamiliar position, Peterson could not threaten Fitzgibbons’ combined score of a 14.23.

“I’ve always wanted to be champion and get carried up the beach here—it’s just unbelievable,” said Sally Fitzgibbons immediately following her final. “The waves here are challenging. You got small conditions, it’s shorepound sometimes, so you just got to love it for what it is and that’s what makes this trophy extra special.”

Click here for photos of all the action from the final day of competition.

Nike US Open of Surfing Men’s Final Result:
1 – Kelly Slater (USA) 16.27
2 – Yadin Nicol (AUS) 2.40

Nike US Open of Surfing Men’s Semifinals Results:
SF 1: Kelly Slater (USA) 17.94 def. Dusty Payne (HAW) 14.90
SF 2: Yadin Nicol (AUS) 13.44 def. Kolohe Andino (USA) 12.87

Nike US Open of Surfing Men’s Quarterfinals Results:
QF 1: Dusty Payne (HAW) 13.93 def. Tanner Gudauskas (USA) 10.10
QF 2: Kelly Slater (USA) 15.50 def. Taj Burrow (AUS) 15.27
QF 3: Kolohe Andino (USA) 10.44 def. Dane Reynolds (USA) 10.33
QF 4: Yadin Nicol (AUS) 11.60 def. Royden Bryson (ZAF) 8.26

Nike US Open of Surfing Women’s Final Result:
1 – Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 14.23
2 – Lakey Peterson (USA) 12.40

Nike US Open of Surfing Women’s Semifinals Results:
SF 1: Lakey Peterson (USA) 14.67 def. Carissa Moore (HAW) 14.60
SF 2: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 14.46 def. Coco Ho (HAW) 14.16

  • Richie

    so good to see Kelly smash some kids up..

  • Lombowski

    Kelly Slater doesn’t raise the bar, he is the bar.

  • Mik

    My previous comment was removed, stating that as brilliant as Kelly surfed in this contest, Taj Burrow should have won the Quarter-Final heat that was handed to Kelly.

    Is it against Surfer Mag’s rules to offer dissenting comments?

    How’s this:

    Kelly is amazing in that he elevated his surfing to a new level of aerial performance. But the reality is that Taj has been a master of that level for years, and the other reality is that a former ASP judge purposefully and admittedly was low-balling Taj for years.

    Taj deserves better. Professional surfing deserves better. And your readers need to know the pros and cons of the world they participate in.

  • Surf Fan

    @ Mik… about the Taj heat… I didn’t get to see it but watching the heat on demand it looks as if Slater won. Very close indeed. It wasn’t handed to Taj. Their trade of barrel scores, Slaters was cleaner. On the other hand, Taj’s heat before that vs Evan Geiselman was a gift to Taj. It definitely was close but Evan should have had the nod.

  • donnaowens

    Slater is the 1 in surfing ya’ll need to bring your a game when ya go aginst him !!!
    although tanner is coming into his own rip it guys!!!!!

  • larry

    I watched the Taj/slater replay three times. To make it short, I think it came down to Taj’s layback snap wave and the difference between Taj and Kelly’s barrels.

    Taj’s layback scored was lower than what we might expect because he fell on his second little float/hit- not a completed wave. Taj was pissed. 6.60. that wave turned out to not be a keeper.

    Comparing the two barrel waves, Kelly came out clean – Taj didn’t. Kelly had a big roundhouse cutty after the barrel + one more smaller turn; Taj had two small turns to the beach. 8.10 – 8.40.

    Kelly wins the heat, although in total Taj surfed better.

  • Rich Evans

    Were you there, Mik? Kelly won, fair and square. In person, Kelly surfs with so much more power and flow. Taj is so flicky and frenetic. Both rip, obviously, but Kelly is still a notch up on him, as he is on basically everyone.

  • Mik

    Brandon: thanks for the note. I’m not angry. Not an angry person. Opinionated, ya, but we all are? I have worked with Surfer in the past, in my role of representing a surf company. So I am not wanting to attack Surfer… Or Kelly. Kelly is exactly who his persona says he is. True greatness. But I still feel that Taj’s tube was a heat changer, and that if Kelly were behind and he pulled out of that basically un-makable barrel the way Taj did, he would have been thrown a 9. Sometimes Kelly’s electricity get’s kinda rewarded more than others. It’s both justifiable, and also unfair. And when you look at Taj’s surfing, it is on the same world class level as Kelly, so I don’t want to see Taj bummed out, and quit the tour, because he is the new Andy as far as being a worthy competitor for Kelly. Also, The idea that Taj is not a power surfer is ridiculous (as per Rich Evan’s comment). Look at that Taj blow-tail snap in that heat, and look at Taj at Margaret River. He throws monster sprays on 10 ft. faces. Taj is the complete package, and a genuinely great guy on top of it. Never disses anyone. So, what I am saying is that I want to see more Taj / Kelly heats, and when they do compete I want an even playing field, because Taj is World Champion caliber, in every way. And I have a huge poster of Kelly on my wall. I draw inspiration from everyone good enough to be on the WTC… Everyone but the judges. They are good, but they need to be excellent.

    • Brendon Thomas

      @Mik: We appreciate your opinions. Keep ’em coming.

  • Rich Evans

    I never said Taj wasn’t a genuinely good guy, or that I wanted him to retire. I just said he’s flicky and frenetic, compared to Kelly. Watch them surf a few more heats in person, and tell me what you think.

    If you want to see more Kelly vs. Taj matches, be prepared to be disappointed a lot more often. I think Kelly’s record vs. Taj is now 18-6, and that includes a whole bunch of locations all over the world, including Australia. If he’s ever going to get a level playing field, it’d be there, and Kelly has smoked him everywhere 2-foot D’Bah to well-overhead Bells.

    Taj is a FANTASTIC surfer, one of the best ever. But the result at HB was fair.

  • Mik

    Brendon: thanks mate!

    Rich: can’t argue with your comments on the Kelly/Taj win loss ratio. or Kelly vs virtually anyone else win loss ratio. Kelly is clearly the master of competitive surfing, and he just re-affirmed his dominance. but I will stick to my opinion of Taj. he is every bit as talented as Kelly as a surfer, but for sure he does not have the same mental game. personally, i think it is the difference between a mind that is clear from avoiding alcohol/etc., and illuminated via Yoga and fitness and diet… and a mind periodically affected by indulgence in the Aussie beverage of choice, etc. Everything matters at that level, and Kelly’s ability to evaluate the present moment is freaking amazing. Until the other top 5 can enter that mindspace, they are still in trouble. Andy is really the the only one who could match-up, and he did it with focus, will-power, and a total lack of fear.

  • Dirt

    FACT. You do not have to be the best surfer in the world to win world titles. FACT. The world title is won by the surfer who best adapts his surfing to the judges imperfect criteria. Kelly does this the best. Taj cares more about hot surfing than getting through heats. @ RICH EVANS. True, Taj is behind in the head to head heat tally, [ in no small part thanks to crap judging] however, if you were ever lucky enough to see both Kelly and Taj out for a free surf together, you would be left in no doubt that Taj is a cut above kelly in this area. FACT Andy always felt that he was inferior to taj, yet Andy knew he could crush him in contests. MORAL OF THE STORY. Take contest results with a pinch of salt, their results tell lies. eg, Adriano’s win in Brasil, Jordy’s win at j bay.

  • Rich Evans

    Mik and Dirt: I have seen Kelly and Taj in the line up at the same time, many times, free surfing and in contests. Kelly is better. NOTICEABLY better.

    I suppose it depends what you favor. If you base everything on tail blows and air reverses, you may have more of a boner for Taj. But when it comes to overall repertoire, speed, flow, combos, flair, variety from wave to wave – Kelly is better. After all these years, he’s STILL better than pretty much everyone. The only exceptions are guys like Dane and Jordy. But their problem is they can’t do it ALL THE TIME. Dane has heats/days where he looks like no one in the world can touch him. The problem is that those moments are so sporadic that it’s hard to call him the “best in the world” until he can do that ALL THE TIME. On a consistent, day-to-day basis, Kelly is still the King, which is all the more remarkable considering the fact that he’s almost 40.

  • dre

    @dirt, how can you say that kelly is not the king and that taj out free surfs him?practically every surfer on tour and pro thinks that kelly is king. When he misses a contest the winners think it was not legit cause kelly was not there, proved by the Jbay pieces that were done on him missing it. He was doing huge airs, crazy cuttys and finding barrells that almost no one esle was and he does this on a consistent basis. what more does the guy have to do, in my opion the only fact here is that maybe you dont need to be the best to win one world title, but that goes out the door when you have 10!! remind me how many world titles does taj have? how many world tour wins does taj have compared to kelly? open your eyes

  • Dirt

    @ Rich Evans, I have also seen kelly and taj together many times freesurfing, and from what i have seen i feel taj is better. I guess it may depend on where you see them surf. However, consider this, Taylor Steel once said that Taj was the easiest surfer to work with because he bags clips faster than anyone. I agree that Kelly is the greatest surfer ever. But he is not as good as his contest results seem to indicate. @dre, What bullshit!, its the surf media who go on about kellys greatness all the time, the other pros are sick of kelly being overscored and overhyped. The ex wife of an asp judge once told me that Australian world titles are bad for business[ for the asp]. This is hearsay of course but is absolutly true. The American surf market, [the biggest in the world] cannot stomach aussie victories, they turn away. The ASP cares more about its own popularity than crowning a true world champ. Look at this years results. CROWD PLEASING!. I sense at the moment the ASP are pushing for a non aussie-american champ. The ASP is trying so hard to make jordy or adriano a world champ. Take of your patriotic glasses and you will see I’m right.

  • dgbjpn

    That contest had some of the wonkiest judging I’ve ever seen. Kelly is clearly the best around but he is obviously over scored more often than not. You can’t give 8s and 9s for a one manuever wave. It’s ruining surfing.

  • dickhaloren

    @Dirt “The American surf market, [the biggest in the world] cannot stomach aussie victories, they turn away. The ASP cares more about its own popularity than crowning a true world champ.”

    I’m calling BS. Americans for the most part love the Aussies. And when it comes to surfing everybody knows that the Aussies have rich tradition of it. Americans, including myself, couldn’t care less if an Aussie won (such as Mick). Occy never had a problem becoming a hero in the US did he?

  • Jeffery

    I remember back in 68-69-70’s when the surf scene wanted to promote me by fixing the heats and giving me the wins against my friends all for the promotion of the industry. Now I wish I had done that because of How Kelly used it to His advantage.

    I chose not to follow this route because of the fixing and I still surfed first peak with the gang at Sebastain Inlet for years.

  • Jorge

    Kelly Slater wins world titles and surfs amazingly superior in all waves and conditions while anonymous internet people make comments. Oh, and he got to poke Pam Anderson.