Slater, Fitzgibbons win Nike U.S. Open of Surfing

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. — Reigning 10-Time ASP World Champion Kelly Slater of Cocoa Beach, Fla., has won the 2011 ASP PRIME Nike U.S. Open of Surfing for the first time since 1996, defeating Australian Yadin Nicol in a dominant final in 2- to 4-foot waves at the iconic Huntington Beach Pier, according to the Association of Surfing Professionals.

Australian Sally Fitzgibbons, 20, was also victorious when she clinched the final stop on the 2011 ASP Women’s World Title series when she topped dangerous wildcard Lakey Peterson of Santa Barbara, Calif., 16, in a hard-fought battle.

Slater, 39, quickly asserted his dominance in the final against Nicol, 26, when he launched a frontside air-reverse and solidified the ride on the reform to earn an 8.50 and backed the ride up with a 7.77 to put the Australian in an early combination-situation and controlled the heat throughout the entirety of the bout.

“I guess Yadin (Nicol) wanted me to win because he didn’t catch any waves,” Slater said. “I was just really frustrated for him because he was sitting out the back waiting for the big sets and the big sets were close outs. The small ones he was just two far outside and I got them. I think what happened is I got the 8.50 to start and he was just going to be patient. If he got a good one he would have thrown a big rotator, but it just never came.”

Slater went on an absolute rampage on the final day of competition and fought his way back into a tough battle to overtake progressive Dusty Payne of Lahaina, Maui, 22, by launching a hail-mary, no-grab backside 360 air. The massive punt garnered the highest single-wave score, 9.77 out of 10, as well as the highest heat-total of 17.94 out of 20.

“Dusty (Payne) had priority and he had gone on a couple of lefts that kind of fizzled out on him and he was probably thinking that left was going to do the same thing his other ones did,” Slater said. “It just let me get going on the face enough and I just tried to rotate as hard as I could and somehow the board stuck to my feet.”

Nicol fought hard throughout the entirety of the competition, taking out dangerous South African Royden Bryson, 28, and prodigious Californian Kolohe Andino, 17, on the final day of competition, but struggled to find a wave in the final against Slater.

Yadin, who was rated No. 36 entering, now sits at 27th on the ASP World Rankings, moving him inside the coveted ASP Top 32 midyear cut for the halfway mark of the year, but with two events remaining on the ASP World Title Season, Nicol remained guarded in claiming his spot for the final elite events.

Fitzgibbons, who finished second on the ASP Women’s World Title Series, was strong on both her forehand and backhand in the final and fought off the determined wildcard to clinch her third elite event on to finish her 2011 season.

“It’s such an unbelievable feeling to get chaired up the beach,” Fitzgibbons said. “To get three wins this year, it has been a really special year and although I didn’t get the title, I can’t believe I’ve won this event.”

Fitzgibbons feels that there is more to come for the highly talked about progressive movement in women’s surfing and wildcards such as Lakey Peterson are a perfect example of the future of the sport.

“Today was just about connecting the dots and stepping it up,” Fitzgibbons said. “I think the future is bright for our sport. Lakey (Peterson) is only 16 and she was in both finals in this event it was a great week for her, but to get the win was an amazing way to cap off the year.”

Peterson proved to be a giant killer throughout the entirety, taking wins over veteran Hawaiian Melanie Bartels, 28, ASP Women’s World Title Rookies and Australians Tyler Wright, 17, and Laura Enever, 19, as well as freshly crowned ASP Women’s World Champion Carissa Moore but was unable to find the scores needed to surpass Fitzgibbons in the final.

Peterson, who won the ASP 4-Star Nike U.S. Open of Surfing Pro Junior Saturday, asserted herself as a frontrunner among the progressive movement of women’s surfing via a dominant run.

The young Californian was the only competitor to put a stop to Moore’s run of finaling in every ASP Top 17 contest this season when she topped the Hawaiian in their semifinals matchup.

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