SURFING'S marketing men will be breathing a sigh of relief today as Kelly Slater confirms he will contest a potential 10th world title. Kicking off the season, event 1 of 10 on the 2009 ASP World Tour, the Quiksilver Pro will be held at the Gold Coast's Snapper Rocks from February 28 through March 11, 2009.
Slater, who in past seasons has been reluctant to commit to a full year of competition, has announced his intentions for the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast and has acknowledged the allure of a possible 10th ASP World Title.
"I commit to where I am," Slater said. "I'll be on the Gold Coast for sure. I'm pretty excited about some new equipment and am ready to surf, I think. No. 10 is alluring and is there for the attempt, but I'll let everyone else worry about the pressure of it as well as I can."
Despite the Floridian's dominance on last year's ASP Dream Tour, Slater admits that the acquisition of ASP World Title No. 10 will be no easy feat, especially considering the hunger and talent of returning ASP Top 45 rippers.
"I'm not sure whether Dane (Reynolds) and Jordy (Smith) will pull straight up to that level to start this year or not, but I know that Parko's always hungry and Mick (Fanning) goes without saying," Slater said. "C.J. (Hobgood) got a taste of it last year again and will come out firing for sure. Taj (Burrow) will be hungry, but I wonder how his focus will be after a couple of really great seasons and not quite the results that his surfing shows all the time - he's always one of the best at Snapper. Bede (Durbidge) will quietly execute more people and Bobby (Martinez) is going to be the hungriest, starting the year without a main sponsor."
In addition to the returning stars on this year's ASP World Tour, a new crop of fresh faces will be joining the best surfers on the planet as they traverse the globe tearing apart the best waves in the world.
"I think Kerr could show some big things, but he was never able to capitalize on a great start the other year and never really backed it up when the time came," Slater said. "I don't expect him to make the same mistakes this time. Nathaniel Curran could quietly take a few people out. I'm really interested to see Barca and what he will do. He's finally made the tour and I don't know if people outside of Hawaii know how good he is yet, especially guys on the World Tour. For all of them, it's a transition from four-man to two-man, and it's a different field with more experience. Rookies need a good start to get out of tough seeding position as well - the first three events are key to a guy requalifying."
Mick Fanning (AUS), 27, former ASP World Champion (2007), dropped seven spots to ASP World No. 8 last season, but the ultra-fit natural-footer is recharged and ready for another assault at the ASP World Title.
"Last year, I wasn't motivated at all really," Fanning said. "It was a huge learning curve for me with all the extra attention, but I had fun. I also had a hip problem throughout the year so I took a couple of events off to get on top of that. This year, I feel very focused and motivated for a big year. I am healthy and fit and everything else is going really well."
Fanning will draw on his hometown experience at the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast, putting his years of experience at the iconic Snapper Rocks to good use.
"It is great to start the year off at my home break," Fanning said. "I guess it is like when everyone has an event at their home break and you're comfortable. You know the waves by heart and you sleep in your own bed and drive your own car. There is nothing like it - it's great. Obviously the Top 5 will always be huge threats but I think Bede (Durbidge) and Joel (Parkinson) have something they really want this year and they are focused on getting it. I think Michel Bourez will be the biggest standout of the rookies."
Bede Durbidge (AUS), 25, current ASP World No. 2, has improved his standing every year since his elite inception at 2005, and has his eyes set on the ASP World Title in 2009.
"I have had a good steady climb on the ratings so I guess there is only one more spot to go now," Durbidge said. "It's always been my goal to win the ASP World Title so I'm in a great spot now to give it a good shot. My preparation has been going really well. It's so good to have all this time off and work on my fitness and my boards. It's the longest break we get all year so it's perfect to build a good fitness and set up for the year ahead."
"Kelly (Slater) had nearly a perfect season last year," Durbidge said. "He was in such good form - he was just on at every event. To take Kelly out this year is a big ask, but it is achievable and I feel I'm up to the challenge. I'm just going to focus on all the things I can do to give myself the best chance and hopefully he doesn't have a season like last year."
The 2009 ASP Top 45 will kick off this season's Dream Tour at the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast, which boasts a waiting period from February 28 - March 11, 2009.
The Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast pres. by LG Mobile will be webcast LIVE via www.quiksilverpro.com.au
The event will incorporate the Roxy Pro Gold Coast pres. by LG Mobile, the opening event of the 2009 ASP Women's World Tour.
For more information, log onto www.aspworldtour.com