Prior to this event, Pat Gudauskas had never progressed through a heat in the Hurley Pro, yet as he paddled out stern faced to confront the 11 time World Champion, his giant slaying intentions were clear.
A paddle battle immediately transpired, with Pat luring Kelly into a closeout devoid of scoring potential. Sat composed, and with priority, the San Clemente local was content to let his venerated rival catch a trio of gutless insiders. Then out of the morning haze a modest left reared up and Pat proceeded to lash off a couple of solid backhand turns. An 8.5 was called and the local contingent on the beach went wild.
From here Kelly was chasing. Only five minutes had passed, but with the pileup at the top of the ASP ratings, thoughts quickly strayed to the possible repercussions of a loss. Kelly nabbed one good wave without priority, slashing a pair of crisp turns and a small air reverse, but while die-hard Kelly fans we ecstatic, it didn't excite the judges. In the meanwhile, Pat was patient, and when a solitary right appeared on the horizon he exploited the first section with a critical nose pick and milked it all the way to the kelp.
The end of the heat began to loom for Kelly, but the ocean was unfavourable and the required score remained just out of reach. When the hooter finally blew, a roar went out on the beach which further compounded the misery of the Floridian, who was left floating with his head down in morose contemplation. The 3rd round loss leaves him with three poor results in his 2013 campaign, in contrast to the ultra-consistent (if not spectacular) performances of his closest rival, Mick Fanning. This was not only a defining moment of the contest, but perhaps of the year.
"There weren't a lot of opportunities for me," said a despondent Slater in his post heat interview. "He (Pat) was patient, he was smart to wait for that first big one. I didn't see his first turn, I only saw his second and third, but I heard the 8.5 and I was a little confused, but you know that's the way it goes, he must of done a really good first turn or something." Kelly Slater
Consummate professional that he is, Slater went on to congratulate Gudauskas who, few could deny, has had his fair share of bad luck. “I’m happy for Pat (Gudauskas),” Slater said. “He’s a great surfer and he’s been on the losing end of several close heats and it’s about time something went his way, but this result is a bummer. This is three bad results for me this year and I don’t have much room to move.”
The rest of the day took on new meaning when viewed through the haze of Kelly's loss. A jubilant Fanning took to the water came through fought a close battle with the dangerous young aerialist, Felipe Toledo.
“I was really nervous knowing the significance of that happening (Kelly’s loss),” Fanning said. “You do the best you can and I had a great heat with Alejo (Muniz). He’s surfed amazing these last few months and it was nerve-wracking in that heat. Getting through this round, you get another three-man heat and it’s a good time to get re-adjusted and focus on what’s next.”
Two of the clear standouts were Julian Wilson and Michel Bourez, who both dominated their third round bouts and posted soaring scores in the non-elimination fourth round. Wilson in particular embodied the progressive essence of Trestles, landing a string of outlandish boosts.
“when I saw the heat draw, I felt like that was the hardest draw I could have today because of the conditions,” Wilson said. “At the same time, I want to be the best, I want to beat the best guys, and Filipe (Toledo) is so strong in those conditions. I knew it was going to take a lot. I just couldn’t get anything going on the rights and looked to the lefts and was able to get a bit of rhythm going and build some scores. I was really happy to win that heat and Filipe put up a really good challenge. I got that score I was chasing the whole heat to get in front of him at the end and I just didn’t give up.”
No matter what the conditions, with Jordy already through to the quarters, and Fanning nudged into the fifth round, the final day of competition will prove an intriguing test for those still pursuing Championship glory.