Slater’s exit leaves title race wide open

Whoever ends up winning the 2013 Hurley Pro will pick up some big points in the World Championship Tour title race, now that current No. 1 Kelly Slater has been eliminated early in the event.

The biggest upset of Tuesday’s action at Lower Trestles in California took place in Round 3 when American Patrick Gudauskas pulled out the one-on-one win against the 11-time world champion. Slater just took over the top position in the rankings after his runner-up finish at Teahupoo, but that may not last very long after his Equal 13th is factored into the equation.

Gudauskas, who resides in San Clemente, Calif., had his family and friends cheering him on from the beach as he guaranteed his best finish in a World Tour event since a quarterfinal appearance at the Rip Curl Pro in October 2010. Gudauskas came into the Hurley Pro ranked 36th in the WCT standings and took second place in his opening heat, before knocking off Adrian “Ace” Buchan in the second round, 13.10 to 9.40.

The third round was likely where most thought he’d end his week, going up against the contest master. But “Gudang” outmaneuvered Slater in that elimination heat, despite scoring just three waves to Slater’s 11. Gudauskas put up an 8.50 on his first wave, then picked his spots and added a 6.73 after a full 16 minutes of waiting for a second ride. He improved with a 7.07 to push him further ahead.

Slater scored a 7.10 late in the heat, but needed a higher 7 or an 8 to move into the lead. He wouldn’t find that score and Gudauskas had a 15.57 to 14.80 win.

In Round 4, Gudauskas furthered his storybook week with a win in the non-elimination heat to send him directly into the quarterfinals. A big finish to the event could propel him back into contention for a Top 22 position and a tour bid for 2014.

Kauai’s Sebastian Zietz took second in his opening heat, so he had to head to Round 2 against Brazil’s Raoni Monteiro. It was all Seabass after the first few minutes, when Zietz scored a 6.50 and followed it up with an 8.17. Those two early waves held all the way for the Kilauea rider and he cruised to a 14.67 to 9.14 victory.

Round 3 was a different story as Tahiti’s Michel Bourez pulled out a narrow win over Seabass. Zietz held a lead through much of the heat until Bourez scored a 6.27 with about six minutes left to take a small lead. Zietz needed a 6.72 to jump back in front and had a shot at it with less than three minutes before the horn, but received a 6.57 from the judges. When the heat reached its conclusion, Bourez came away with a 13.94 to 13.80 victory.

The result will be an Equal 13th for Seabass, who entered the event in 16th place for the season. With two events left on the 2013 schedule, a couple more solid results will punch his ticket for 2014.

Round 4 was completed Tuesday, so 12 surfers will still be alive when Round 5 is scheduled to get underway today. Further action will be televised on Oceanic channel 250 or 1250.

The Association of Surfing Professionals also announced Tuesday that the Women’s World Championship Tour will be adding an event at Lower Trestles for the 2014 season. This year’s Women’s WCT is back in action next week at the France Roxy Pro, scheduled for September 24 to 30.

• ‘My Thoughts Exactly’ appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays in The Garden Island. Email David Simon your comments or questions to dsimon@thegardenisland.com. Follow David on Twitter @SimonTGI

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