Eleven time world champion 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.
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.
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.
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 (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.
Not often you see an aerial at Sunset Beach, but with John John Florence in the line up the unexpected happened, which put him up for the Hawaiian Air Show, whose winner gets 250,000 Hawaiian Airlines miles.
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