De Souza bests Slater to take Rip Curl Pro Portugal

SUPERTUBOS, Peniche/Portugal  — Adriano de Souza (BRA), 24, won the Rip Curl Pro Portugal over Kelly Slater (USA), 39, in clean three-to-five foot (1 – 1.5 metre) barrels at Supertubos Tuesday.

Event No. 9 of 11 on the 2011 ASP World Title Series, the Rip Curl Pro Portugal culminated in exciting fashion as a feast of picturesque barrels closed out one of the most memorable events in ASP history.

De Souza tore through the field on the final day of competition, taking down Travis Logie (ZAF), 32, Michel Bourez (PYF), 25, and Bede Durbidge (AUS), 28, en route to his final clash with Slater. The young Brazilian opened up with a solid forehand barrel to secure a 9.00 out of a possible 10 and put pressure on the defending champion. Slater answered back with two solid scores of his own, but De Souza came back in the final minutes to hammer the nail in the coffin and secure the third elite tour win of his career.

“Kelly (Slater) has been my hero since I ever heard about surfing,” De Souza said. “He is a living legend and to be competing against him at this level is more than a dream come true. He has pushed me more than any other surfer and I owe him a lot. The waves have been incredible for this event. Thanks to Rip Curl for bringing us here and thanks to all the Portuguese who have supported me throughout the event.”

The win vaults De Souza from 6th to 3rd on the ASP World Title rankings and into contention heading into the last two events of the year.

“I haven’t been as consistent as I would like to be this season but I have had two of the biggest results of my career here and in Brazil,” De Souza said. “It’s very special to win in these kinds of conditions. I just want to finish the year with some good results – I’m not thinking about the World Title.”

Slater, the reigning 10-time ASP World Champion, moved one step closer to clinching his 11th crown. Should he finish 9th or better in the upcoming Rip Curl Pro Search San Francisco event (two heat wins), he will seal the deal.

“It’s been an amazing event,” Slater said. “I can’t remember a time when we’ve had so many 9s and high 8s and we’ve all just got barreled off our heads for three days straight. It’s been pretty amazing.Taj Burrow (AUS), 33, rampaged through the day’s affairs, claiming a Round 4 win before dispatching of red-hot rookie Julian Wilson (AUS), 22, in the Quarterfinals. Burrow then faced Slater in a heated Semifinal exchange. The Western Australian pulled out to an early lead as both tube specialists went blow for blow in the opening exchanges. However, a last-minute Perfect 10 from the champ would seal the deal and send Burrow home with an Equal 3rd.

“What do you say after that?” Burrow said. “It was another one of those situations where we were both getting good waves. I broke my board and was paddling out when he dropped in on that left – first left of the heat – and I knew it was a 10 straight away. I’m still a bit blown away. It’s been an amazing event though. Some of the best waves I’ve ever surfed.”

Bede Durbidge (AUS), 28, matched his best result of the season, besting John John Florence (HAW), 19, and Joel Parkinson (AUS), 30, en route to his Equal 3rd place finish. Despite having his run halted by De Souza in the Semifinals, Tuesday’s result moves Durbidge from 18th to 15th on the ASP World Title rankings and that much closer to cracking the Top 10.

“It’s been a big event for me here so I can’t be upset with losing there,” Durbidge said. “We’ve had incredible waves throughout the event and I just didn’t have the rhythm there in the Semifinal. It’s a big result for me and hopefully that turns my year around heading into the last two events.”

Owen Wright (AUS), 21, current No. 2 on the ASP World Title rankings, was eliminated this morning in a hard-fought Round 3 battle against ASP Dream Tour newcomer John John Florence (HAW), 19. Despite posting an excellent 16.96 out of a possible 20, Wright was unable to overcome the preternatural onslaught from the young Hawaiian.

“When I saw John John (Florence) moving through the draw, I knew there was a real possibility of meeting him early on,” Wright said. “He’s obviously very dangerous in these conditions as it resembles him home at Pipeline. That said, I put together a good heat I think so I can hold my head up. I just didn’t come out on top in this instance.”

Wright’s early ousting from the Rip Curl Pro Portugal doesn’t bode well for his 2011 ASP World Title campaign as Slater moves closer to clinching the crown. However, the young Australian remains positive in his approach to the remainder of the season.

“I’m going to go home before San Francisco and recharge,” Wright said. “There are still two events to go and I really want to finish my year strong.”

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