SUNSET BEACH, Oahu/Hawaii (Saturday, November 30, 2013) - 11-time ASP World Campion (/athletes/553/kelly-slater)Kelly Slater] rarely surfs in competition outside of elite ASP World Championship Tour events; it's a strategy for staying balanced in his life, competing at a consistently high level, and minimizing risk of injury and strain as he moves further into his 40s. So the opportunity to see him in action at the Vans World Cup of Surfing today - a Prime rated event - in a rare heat with Dane Reynolds (USA), Heitor Alves (Brazil), and Joan Duru (France), was good reason for a maximum crowd to fill Sunset Beach.The Vans World Cup of Surfing is the second event of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing hydrated by vitaminwaterÂ®.
It's a well-known fact that Slater, 41, has enormous respect for Reynolds' surfing, and after more than 20 years on tour, Dane is one surfer who can truly inspire him in a heat. The fact that Reynolds rarely competes these days only made the opportunity more interesting for Slater and he clearly enjoyed the volley of waves the pair engaged in today.
Waves were in the 4- to 6-foot range for their heat, offering plenty of high performance scoring potential. The fact that Reynolds is still alive in the competition also spices up his relevance, as he remains in contention for the Vans Triple Crown series title after making the semi's at Haleiwa last week.
Reynolds led the heat from the outset, creating the type of come-from-behind opportunity that always throws fuel on Slater's competitive fire. Slater struck in the closing minutes of the heat, finding a rare left-breaking standup tube with a fast and tight clean exit to get the beach crowd on its feet. A near-perfect score of 9.87 shot Slater to first and switched Reynolds to second for both to advance.
"(Dane) started off with a bang," said Slater. "It was only a small wave that he caught at the start, I think he got a little tube and did a couple of turns. But you get a 7.6 on your first wave and you're pretty much guaranteed to make the heat. He backed it up with a couple of sixes and he was kind of commanding the heat.
"That last wave... Heitor needed a low 7 to take me out. As we paddled it looked like a right. I could see there was a left on it but the right was there too, so I was going to really force my hand on the right. He saw that so he stopped paddling and I just turned left. You know, where he was, he would have got an even deeper barrel, so he could have probably got a 10 on that wave. He probably won't like to see that video (laughs).
"There was a lot of chop and stuff but it threw out far enough to be a no-hands dry barrel. Backside, no hands is a pretty good size barrel. It was a clean exit. I was surprised."
Slater's two wave total of 17.37 points out of 20 was the highest of the Round of 64. While he admits he doesn't have a special connection with Sunset Beach - saying he doesn't like the expansive playing field and the bigger boards it requires, if he's in it, he's in it to win it.
Australia's Bede Durbidge wasn't far behind Slater on the scores today with 15.6 points. In his 15th winter in the Hawaiian Islands, Bede is well-versed at Sunset and would love nothing more than a win here. Currently double qualifying but at the low end of qualification on both the World Championship Tour and Qualifying Series, a strong finish here would take all the pressure off.
"I've been coming here for so many years now and I just enjoy the waves," said Bede. "When you're competing here, you're just against the ocean because it's such a big playing field out there. I just love competing in Hawaii and love the whole Triple Crown. It's such a fun series of contest to do.
"Yesterday you saw it was 15 foot and today it's 6- to 8-foot, and tomorrow it might be 2-foot. You've got to be ready for anything and that's why it's the Triple Crown and that's why it's so hard to win, because it could be 20 foot or 2 foot. You've got to be prepared for anything in Hawaii.
"I defintely want to win one of the events and I'd love to win Sunset. It's always been a dream and I just would love to hold that trophy up."
Hawaii's Fred Patacchia - runner-up at Haleiwa last week, posted one of the highest heat scores of the day (16.46), but more importantly is now the front-runner for the Vans Triple Crown title. [Michel Bourez] (/athletes/593/michel-bourez)(Tahiti), who last week beat him in the Reef Hawaiian Pro, was eliminated today and subsequently left the door open for Patacchia to make a run for it. Dane Reynolds - a semi-finalist last week and through today, is in second. Bourez is in third and still in contention with the Billabong Pipe Masters still to come.
Also posting heat wins today were Beyrick De Vries (South Africa), Wade Carmichael (Australia) and Carlos Munoz (Costa Rica). Along with Krystian Kymerson (Brazil), who advanced with a second, all four of these surfers are in contention for the JN Chevrolet Vans Triple Crown Rookie of the Year award.
While waves are expected to drop further tomorrow, the forecast for the remainder of the holding period is not strong, so there is a chance that the final of the Vans World Cup of Surfing will happen tomorrow. Tune into the LIVE WEBCAST at 7am tomorrow for the status of competition.
The Vans World Cup of Surfing holds a waiting period from November 24 through December 6, 2013 and is webcast LIVE via http://vanstriplecrownofsurfing.com/vansworldcupofsurfing2013
The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing hydrated by vitaminwaterÂ® is the world's premier series of professional surfing events that will culminate with a 2-man battle between (/athletes/553/kelly-slater)Kelly Slater] (USA) and Mick Fanning (AUS) for the 2013 men's ASP World Title. From November 12 through December 20, on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii, $960,000 in prize money and a number of highly coveted titles will be offered across three ASP sanctioned events, including the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing series champion.