Kelly Slater is out of the Rip Curl Pro Portugal. It was a cruel way to have your title hopes pierced. Early on a dreary Portuguese morning the world title race gently deflated with barely a hiss. If Fanning does well in this event then it is all over.
In France the judges gave Parko a generous score, and here, with a minute to go you wanted almost wanted a bit of love to drop in for the title race. Surely Kelly can't lose out in these inconsistent mushy conditions. But no, despite landing a few hopeful punts there was no gimmie the razor edged judging. And nor should there be.
Competition is a cruel mistress who ironically cares little for World Title hopes, or drawing out battles down to Pipeline. The pressure gradients which decide whether Supertubos barrels or is 2ft mush in any given 10 day window has never heard of the ASP, Kelly Slater or White Lightning. "It is what it is" Said contest director, Damien Hardman "We have to get going."
"Not much to talk about" Kelly said upon his loss. "I didn't have a whole lot of a game plan, I was watching Mick's heat and he was struggling to get sixes. The sets were closed out and the small ones were fat and flat. And yeah, I didn't have too much of a game plan. I'm just having trouble being inspired by the surf in the last three events and my performance has probably shown that. You know, he just got the better of me this morning. He had the better waves, capitalised on it and made the big moves... I'm just glad it's over to be honest.
"I didn't have a whole lot of a game plan, I was watching Mick's heat and he was struggling to get sixes. The sets were closed out and the small ones were fat and flat. And yeah, I didn't have too much of a game plan. I'm just having trouble being inspired by the surf in the last three events and my performance has probably shown that.
When asked about whether he's be watching Mick closely, he stated, "I don't know if I'll watch much. I might leave tonight or tomorrow. It doesn't look like the surf is going to be all that good this week. I think it's going to be onshore wind and get a bit bigger, but it'll probably be messy surf for the remainder of the event.
On the title race Kelly said, "I'd have to ask Renato, or look at the numbers myself. I think if Mick makes the final I'm out, or if he doesn't I get to go to Pipe with him. So hopefully he fails to get that far and I can at least have a shot at Pipe. I'm expecting I'll need to win or at least make the final to have a shot. And hope that Mick is not in there with me if I make it that far at Pipe.
We've got almost two months now and I'm going to go do some rehab, get my body back together, try and get my mind back in it. If this week works out then great, if not then Mick's been the strongest performer of the year, his results have been great at every event. It's hard to bet a guy like that. I've had highs and lows, some good results, and some terrible results. I've had some really good performances, some of my best performances ever and some of my worrtst ones. It's just been one of those years.
When asked to consider how long it takes to bounce back he said, "I think I'm alright now. I needed a five, then a six, then almost a seven. I was processing it in the moment, thinking this could be over and I might not have to sit around and wait for bad surf. Sometimes you just feel that way after 20 years on Tour. I'm not trying to say anything bad and sometimes you just get frustrated over the conditions which you have no control over. After 20 years it's hard to care when it's like this. I'm happy for him to get through and Mick's super-motivated. He's a good friend of mine but that's all out of the window when you try and complete. If he wins it, good for him, and if I get a chance at Pipe and win then it would be a spectacular thing for me. We'll see how it goes."
It almost felt a bit like a retirement speech from someone who's been there, done, and won it all. If he is ducking out of competition, and however much Kelly Slater has tried to distance himself from the incoming administration, he is part of the newly minted Zosea management of the ASP, via his manager Terry Hardy, and as such isn't going anywhere. Even if he's not on tour next year, he'll still be the tour.
Fanning, current frontrunner in the hunt for the 2013 ASP World Title, survived a dangerous Round 2 match-up against event wildcard Francisco Alves, in the opening heat of the day. Despite the challenging conditions, Fanning demonstrated his signature speed and power to advance into the third round and move one step closer to his third world surfing crown.
“It’s been a long wheel of getting up early every morning,” Fanning said. “This morning, conditions felt alright and once we got out there it felt a little bit weaker with that tide coming in. I’m just stoked to get the heat done and start moving. When you get the wildcard, people always want to see the underdog win, especially in Portugal where the fans are just fanatical but it’s really cool to see. Francisco (Alves) surfs really well.”
The swell is forecast to grow over the coming days, but onshore winds could continue to be a problem.
RIP CURL PRO PORTUGAL ROUND 2 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Mick Fanning (AUS) 13.00 def. Francisco Alves (PRT) 8.93
Heat 2: Frederico Morais (PRT) 12.34 def. Kelly Slater (USA) 10.13
Heat 3: Michel Bourez (PYF) 14.50 def. Dillon Perillo (USA) 8.26
Heat 4: Adriano De Souza (BRA) 12.60 def. Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 11.03
RIP CURL PRO PORTUGAL REMAINING ROUND 2 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 5: C.J Hobgood (USA) vs. Yadin Nicol (AUS)
Heat 6: Adrian Buchan (AUS) vs. Kieren Perrow (AUS)
Heat 7: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. Alejo Muniz (BRA)
Heat 8: Jeremy Flores (FRA) vs. Damien Hobgood (USA)
Heat 9: Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) vs. Patrick Gudauskas (USA)
Heat 10: Brett Simpson (USA) vs. Miguel Pupo (BRA)
Heat 11: Travis Logie (ZAF) vs. Adam Melling (AUS)
Heat 12: Bede Durbidge (AUS) vs. Kolohe Andino (USA)