The surfing world is still buzzing about the final heat in last week's Rip Curl Pro, the second contest in the Assn. of Surfing Professionals' World Tour schedule at Bells Beach in Australia.
Kelly Slater, who seems to be leaning toward making a serious run at his 12th ASP World Tour championship, did not win the event. He lost to Mick Fanning in the final heat.
But what Slater did do is pull off another perfect 10 in the final heat, his second one in less than a year. He also did it last year at the Quiksilver Pro in New York, both with the same move — an air-reverse 360.
But if they are both scored a perfect 10, can either one be better than the other? The ironic thing is that the last 10 at Bells Beach was not enough to give Slater the win.
Scoring the top two waves in the final heat, Fanning scored 18.80 on his two, Slater 18.07. Slater does lead the overall points standings after two of 10 events, placing fifth in the first contest at Gold Coast in Australia to go with his second-place finish at Bells.
But it was Fanning, who is tied for third in the overall points standings, who came out on top at Bells, with two big scores, even though he wasn't "perfect" on either.
"I'm so pumped," Fanning told aspworldtour.com. "Kelly did that Hail Mary for the 10 and I thought, 'oh, here we go.' I just caught waves and I'm stoked it all paid off. I'm really at a loss for words and I'm just pumped. It doesn't get any sweeter."
An interesting aspect to the final had to do with what observers on the beach can't see or hear. It's the interaction between the surfers, the talking that goes on as they wait for a swell.
Slater's 10 apparently was spurred on by Fanning's reluctance to make small talk with Slater.
Slater's strategy is to be cool during the competition and possibly take away his opponent's competitive drive. But Fanning wouldn't bite.
"I was moving around trying to get active and I was just finding my feet," Slater said. "I knew Mick was going to be real patient. I knew he got that start and then I tried to talk to him and he put his serious head on ... so I thought I'd throw a big rotator on him and it wasn't enough. That was pretty exciting for me. Even when he had the 9 and 8-something, I had a feeling I was in it. I felt like something good was going to come my way and it started to. I had one more chance and that was about it. I knew it was going to be a bit of a struggle with the waves out there, with the long intervals and long lulls, but that's just the way it goes."
Australian Josh Kerr, who is known as one of the best aerial artists in the world, was impressed with Slater's move, even if he didn't win.
"I've never seen him do something like that free surfing or on video or anything like that," Kerr told STAB Magazine. "He's a proper, ridiculous sportsman, because he rises even above his own level when he's in the heat of competition. It's the biggest front side full-rote ever done in competition, for sure. He hucked that thing and didn't get one bit of cushion before he landed on the flats. He had a long way down."
Huntington Beach's Brett Simpson had a solid showing at Bells, finishing tied for ninth place and moving into 13th place in the overall points standings.
The next ASP World Tour contest is the Billabong Rio Pro next month in Rio de Janeiro.
On the women's side, Australia's Stephanie Gilmore seems intent on regaining her world title.
Gilmore had won four ASP World Tour titles in a row from 2007-10 before Hawaiian Carissa Moore, at just 18 years old, won it last year as Gilmore placed third.
But in the first three ASP World Tour events, Gilmore has won two of them and finished second in the other, giving her a comfortable lead in the overall points standings over second-place Sally Fitzgibbons and Moore in third.
The women's tour has seven events, with the final contest being held at the Nike US Open of Surfing in Huntington the first week of August.
Lakey Peterson is off to a good start in her rookie year on the World Tour. The 17-year-old from Santa Barbara finished third at the most recent World Tour event, the TSB Bank Surf Festival in New Zealand and ranks sixth in the overall points standings.
Peterson reached the final heat and placed second last year as a 16-year-old at Huntington's US Open.
JOE HAAKENSON is an Orange County-based sports writer and editor. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.