VICTORY for 19-year-old Aussie, Owen Wright, was the upset of Round 2 of the WCT at Bells Beach. He defeated Kelly Slater in a straight fight, probably bursting his hopes of a 10th world title in the process. The young Australian strode to an early lead with his critical backhand attack, in pumping 6ft/2m conditions, netting 14.67 out of a possible 20, while Slater hunted barrels on his forehand to no avail.
"I am really happy," Wright said. "It has been a long week waiting to surf against Kelly Slater. I have just been relishing it and waiting for it. Out there, I just stayed on my own game and really just concentrated on what I was doing. I just got the set waves and surfed them, then the ocean went flat at the end and I kept the win."
Wright has been in sterling form in 2009, collecting three ASP Pro Junior event wins as well as a No. 8 spot on the ASP World Qualifying Series (WQS). Today's win against the nine-time ASP World Champion was further evidence of the explosive goofy-footer's world-class form, and a great boost to confidence for the remainder of the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach.
"I'll be taking a lot of confidence into my next heat," Wright said. "I am just rapt with that heat and really happy to get one over Kelly Slater. There won't be many chances like that one to come around."
Slater displayed his patented mastery of the Bells bowl, sliding into barrels and smashing the lip on several occasions, but a failed exit on a double-barrel wave cost the Floridian the score needed.
"It was reminiscent of a heat I had out here against Sunny Garcia in 2000," Slater said. "I needed to come out of a second barrel to get through the heat and fell. Sunny went on to win the event and the World Title. Which is pretty dooming I suppose. I didn't see too much of Owen (Wright) surfing in the heat, but he did one big turn in front of me and I'll have to watch the video later."
The result marks the second equal 17th finish for Slater in 2009, making his campaign for an unprecedented 10th ASP World Title much more difficult.
"The magic hasn't been there yet this season like it was last year," Slater said. "However, I just have to remember that it's early in the season and there's a long way to go."
Aussies rocked the event as Joel Parkinson, current ASP World No 1, dominated today's conditions at Bells Beach, he defeated 2009 ASP Dream Tour rookie Michel Bourez, unleashing a flurry of fluid carves and explosive lip maneuvers to secure the highest single-wave score of the day, a 9.23 out of a possible 10.
"There is nothing better than coming over the hill for Bells," Parkinson said. "Especially when you know you have an early morning heat, a low tide, it's offshore and it is 4-6 foot. It has probably only happened two to three times in my career so I will definitely remember this one for a while."
Former ASP World Champion, Mick Fanning, and past winner of the Rip Curl Pro, kept up the sensational Australian form, securing the day's highest heat total of a 17.16 out of a possible 20 for his phenomenal forehand performance.
"The waves are pumping right now, it is so consistent," Fanning said. "It was a bit nerve-wracking not surfing for a week as you normally have the Round 1 surf to work out how things are going."
Following a brief relocation to nearby Winkipop for Heats 11 and 12, an onshore flow forced event organizers to call competition off for the day.
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach officials will reconvene tomorrow morning at 7am for a possible 7:30am start.
When competition resumes, veteran ripper Taj Burrow (AUS), 30, will take on replacement seed Jay Thompson (AUS), 25, in Heat 13 of Round 2.
Highlights from today's Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach pres. by Snickers will be available via www.live.ripcurl.com
For more information, log onto www.aspworldtour.com