It might be the beginning of a new year but one thing remains the same — Kelly Slater is still in position to go after an unprecedented world title, his ninth.
Local legend Mick Fanning claimed the first Association of Surfing Professionals event of 2007 in near flawless 5- to 6-foot barreling conditions at Snapper Rocks on the Gold Coast of Australia.
That saw an in-form Fanning defeat fellow Australian Bede Durbridge in another high-powered surfing final with both surfers taking the lead after high scores for their tube rides.
Although Fanning proved to be too strong for Durbridge in the final, Durbridge had a fantastic event as he first upset crowd favorite Joel Parkinson and then Slater, who had been high- scoring his way toward the final before being stopped dead in his tracks.
Durbridge took an early lead in their semifinal clash, only to see Slater come back to regain the lead. Then Durbridge, in the dying seconds, caught the wave of the day to regain the lead for good — sending the 10,000 or so fans into a frenzy — and Slater packing — in what may have been the heat of the contest.
In semifinal two, Mick Fanning put on a clinic over fellow Australian Taj Burrow, who finished equal third along with Slater.
Finishing in equal fifth were veterans Joel Parkinson and Michael Campbell, along with tour rookies Josh Kerr and Ben Dunn, all from Australia.
In a stunning upset, former three-time world champion Andy Irons was dispatched by wild card entry Jake Paterson, giving Irons a less than spectacular equal 33rd to begin his new year.
The ASP world tour now heads to the cold waters of Bells Beach, Australia, which begins April 3 with a new number one leading the way — but for how long?
My guess is that this year’s tour will go down to the wire between Fanning and Slater.