TAVARUA, Fiji — Eight-time ASP World Champion Kelly Slater has won his third event on the 2008 ASP World Tour after eliminating C.J. Hobgood in the final of the Globe Pro Fiji held in 6-foot waves at Cloudbreak. Slater remains the only member of the ASP Top 45 to win an event this year — the last ASP World Tour event held in Tahiti was won by a wildcard.
“I don’t think I’ve ever won three out of the first four events on tour,” Slater said. “I’ve won the first two a couple times but I think this is the first time I’ve ever done this. Being the only guy on tour to win an event is pretty odd n I don’t think there has ever been that situation on tour. I know (Tom) Curren and Potts [Martin Potter] both won the first three, but I don’t think a wildcard filled in that fourth one.”
Slater has now extended his ASP ratings lead with Joel Parkinson and Bede Durbidge maintaining their World No. 2 and 3 spots behind him.
“This feels good — three wins this year, as Damien said to me, I’m sitting on dubs,” Slater said. “That’s as many points as you can get out of three contests, that fourth one, Tahiti, is obviously just a throw away and, lucky for me in that situation, Joel was only the only guy to actually do anything there. C.J. got a result there too — up to that point he hadn’t really done anything, so he’s sitting on a second and a third, he’s looking pretty good now.”
Yesterday’s final match-up was a repeat of the 2005 edition of the event. Much to C.J. Hobgood’s chagrin, their leaderboard in Fiji finals now reads 2:0 in Slater’s favor.
“The waves in that last final we had were quite a bit bigger and more intense at Restaurants,” Slater said. “There were much bigger scores which was to be expected. Today if you had two eights you could probably make it through. Cloudbreak is a much bigger arena and there were some good waves in the final that I don’t think we caught — there were some nines out there, probably a 10.00 or two — but we weren’t quite in the spot for them.”
Hobgood, the 2001 ASP World Champion, jumps from 12th to 6th on the ratings with the result, but the second-place finish was bittersweet for him after finishing third in Tahiti. Both he and his twin brother Damien are known for posting big results during the South Pacific leg. Slater eliminated them both in the Globe Pro Fiji.
“It’s hard to swallow when it’s another missed opportunity for me in back to back contests,” Hobgood said. “I had a missed opportunity at the beginning of the heat and that was the difference. Kelly did his thing and going up against him you know you need to catch better waves and I didn’t catch better waves. There were two waves that came through that no one was on and if I would have been on them it would have been the difference. Like I was telling Kelly, the only good thing to come from this is that at least I didn’t decide to have a crackerjack year when the guy in front of me is the only guy to win on tour.”
Hobgood knows that his loss today was not just his own. Slater’s third win this year puts him in an excellent position to campaign for an astounding ninth ASP World Title.
“No one on tour right now has beat him this year,” Hobgood said. “I am stoked for him and I’m stoked I was able to do some good surfing but I know everyone rated 2nd to 45th wanted me to win that final so I let them down. I need three wins now and so does everyone else. That is a huge hole to be in but it can be done. I’m just looking forward to my first win, maybe these seconds and thirds will make me hungrier and hopefully Kelly can get on his heels for awhile and not be as hungry and then we’ll see what happens.”
Hobgood had better luck in his semifinal against Adriano de Souza. De Souza only posted 13.87 to Hobgood’s 17.64, but was elated nonetheless.
“I can’t believe I got third in this event, I’m really happy,” de Souza said. “For me this result is the best I have ever had in my whole life. Everybody comes here to prove themselves, everybody looks for this result. It is a big surprise for me to bring this result home to my country, so I am really stoked.”
De Souza’s only other semifinal berth came in his first event on the ASP World Tour on the Gold Coast of Australia in 2006. His equal third result then put him in the Top 5 on the ASP ratings for a couple of weeks — a place he’s worked his way back to with this result. He moved to World No. 4 yesterday.
“I’m really happy to be in the Top 5 for the first time in two years,” de Souza said. “It feels really good to put my name there, but it is still early days. It’s not hard for the other guys nTaj and Andyn to come through behind me they are really strong in the next event. For me, I have to go home to train and get focused for JBay. I have to take it event by event.”
Slater defeated Burrow in the semifinals when he scored two nine-point rides n the second of which he earned under Burrow’s priority — to beat the Australian 18.70 to 12.84.
“I’m not stoked,” Burrow said. “Kelly did what he is famous for and pulled two good scores out of waves that didn’t look that amazing. There is not much more I could have done. I felt like I surfed well on the waves I got, but I just didn’t get those ones. I can’t be too angry… but I am. I’m devastated I’m not in the final but a third is a keeper so I’ll work from there.”
Burrow’s equal third finish saw him move from seventh to fifth on the ASP ratings, but last year’s world No. 2 had been envisioning a scenario more like the one in which he beat Slater in the final of last year’s ASP World Tour event in Jeffreys Bay, South Africa.
“I was thinking about how much I smoked Kelly in the JBay final last year during that heat,” Burrow said. “I wanted to do that again but I knew it was going to be hard. He got me at Bells [Beach] this year too so I was pretty hungry for the win but it just didn’t come together. I’m just thinking about JBay now and defending my title there.”
The world’s best surfers will reconvene in Jeffreys Bay from July 10 to 20.