There's nothing like a good, old-fashioned dog fight, even in the world of professional surfing — and that is exactly what this year's world title race is beginning to look like. I'm just not sure that it includes Jordy Smith anymore.
A semifinal clash of the titans between defending event champion and defending world champion Mick Fanning against surfing celebrity Kelly Slater saw a visibly upset Fanning question Slater's tactics and gamesmanship shortly after his defeat.
What a difference a week makes. It was Fanning who got sweet revenge against Slater in the finals of the Quiksilver Pro in the South of France, in massive 10- to 12-foot waves, to defend his title there. The defending champion has now moved up two slots from the No. 5 position and into the No. 3 slot in the world title race. Smith continues to hold onto the No. 2 position behind Slater.
While Slater and Fanning have clearly raised their games, it should be duly noted that Huntington Beach's own Brett Simpson had a career-high semifinal finish and now finds himself as the 20th ranked surfer in the world.
With the tour now headed to Peniche, Portugal, you can bet that both Slater and Fanning, who have 11 world titles between them, know what's at stake with three remaining events left. Look for Fanning to over take Smith in the world rankings, with Slater maintaining the lead. Don't be surprised to see a Cinderella story win for a surfer named Owen Wright if the event is held in suck-up left tubes. I see an upset win in the makings.
JAMES PRIBRAM is a professional surfer and John Kelly Environmental Award winner. His websites include AlohaSchoolofSurfing and ECOWarrior Surf.com. He can be reached at Jamo@Aloha SchoolofSurfing.com.