The world title race will be determined in Hawaii and just two men have a chance at the 2013 championship.
After Thursday’s completion of the Rip Curl Pro Portugal, only Mick Fanning and Kelly Slater have the opportunity to add to each of their own world title hauls.
Despite Slater’s early elimination in Round 2 and Fanning’s defeat in the quarterfinals, no other contender made a deep enough run to keep themselves in the mix going into the final World Championship Tour event, the Billabong Pipe Masters (December 8 to 20).
Australia’s Kai Otton reached his first ever WCT final and made the most of his opportunity by grinding out a victory against WCT rookie Nat Young. Young has made a pair of finals in his first elite tour season and clinched the ASP Rookie of the Year honor during the event, besting Brazil’s Filipe Toledo and Kauai’s Sebastian Zietz.
The win for Otton vaulted him up to seventh place in the WCT standings, as he has come on very strong late in the season. After making it past the third round just once in his first five events of the year, Otton has since reached the semifinals at Teahupoo, the quarters at both Trestles and France, and now the victory in Peniche.
But the championship is still Fanning’s to lose, as he eyes his third career world title. The scenario is pretty simple: Slater has to win the Pipe Masters to wrestle the title away from Fanning. Even if Slater were to win, Fanning could still stay ahead in the standings by finishing Equal 3rd or better.
While we have to wait two months for that result to be determined, the Hawaii surf season kicks off soon with the HIC Pro at Sunset Beach on October 29. Competitors will be vying for inclusion at the Triple Crown of Surfing, where Zietz made his biggest career splash last year. The Kilauea rider won the Reef Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa, made the semifinals at the Vans World Cup at Sunset Beach, then made the Pipe Masters quarters to win the 2012 Triple Crown title and get himself on this year’s World Tour.
Zietz won’t have to win it all again in order to get back on the WCT in 2014, as he currently sits in 17th place for the season. The Top 22 all re-qualify, so Zietz has already done enough to make it back next year.
Things are much murkier for a few surfers on the bubble, like Matt Wilkinson, Bede Durbidge, Brett Simpson, Miguel Pupo, Patrick Gudauskas and Damien Hobgood. They’ll need good results at Pipe for a 2014 ticket.
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