Well, so much for my call that Kelly Slater would continue his run of finals in the two previous events and win the 2010 Billabong Pro held at Jeffreys Bay in South Africa. Instead, it was hometown hero Jordy Smith taking his maiden victory on the ASP World Tour in an electrifying final, with unsung upstart Adam Melling of Australia making his first final and skyrocketing up from a lonely 41st in the ratings up to 19th in the ASP World Tour.
That's key for Melling, since at the mid-point this year the world tour will cut down to only the top 32 surfers qualifying and able to continue on, which seems absurd to me.
Meanwhile, it is Smith who now finds himself ranked No. 1 in the world with six events remaining, going into one of the tour's most dangerous waves in the likes of Teahupoo, Tahiti, another venue that is tailor-made for the likes of Slater, who was upended in Round 3 of the Billabong Pro at Jeffreys Bay.
Slater was taken out by local South African and giant killer Sean Holmes, who is known as one of the best surfers at J-Bay but was a wild card at the Billabong Pro, notoriously known for taking down some of the tour's biggest stars like Slater and former three-time world champion Andy Irons. Holmes' run was finally stopped in the quarterfinals. Also making the quarterfinals were Adriano De Souza, Dane Reynolds and Damien Hobgood finishing in equal fifth, while Taj Burrow and Bede Durbidge finished in equal third, losing in the semifinals.
The current top five ranked surfers on the world tour are as follows: Smith, Burrow, Slater, Reynolds and De Souza.
With a month off from the world tour now, look for Slater to retool his surfing arsenal and get ready for Teahupoo, an event he has won more than anyone else. The time is now for Slater; it's obvious that Smith is not backing down to the king of surfing and is going to bring it until the very end. It's looking like it could be the most exciting title race since 2003, when a rampaging Irons came from behind to steal the title from Slater's grip at the Pipeline Masters.
Will history repeat itself?
JAMES PRIBRAM is a professional surfer and John Kelly Environmental Award winner. His websites include AlohaSchoolofSurfing.com and ECOWarriorSurf.com. He can be reached at Jamo@AlohaSchoolofSurfing.com.