In wake of Hurley Pro, world surfing title hunt looks like an Australian affair
It also became reasonably clear that an Australian will win for only the second time since Mark Occhilupo claimed the crown in 1999 (Fanning won the title in 2007).
Fanning's triumph at Lower Trestles in San Clemente boosted him from No. 7 to No. 2 in the ASP World Tour rankings, behind fellow Aussie Joel Parkinson, who has won three of six contests this season and holds a commanding lead despite a third-round loss at the Hurley Pro.
(Surfers are allowed to throw out their two worst results.)
Slater's loss to Fanning in the semifinals gave him only the minutest of chances, as he improved from No. 8 to No. 6.
Ranked Nos. 3-5 are Brazil's Adriano de Souza (now living in south Orange County) and Florida twins C.J. and Damien Hobgood. All three are in the race but neither has an event victory this season and victories will be required down the stretch of whomever hopes to catch Parkinson and Fanning.
Said Fanning, who was paid $105,000 for his triumph: "I'm overwhelmed. I guess it’s more about building momentum again this year and getting the hunger back.”
Slater, 37, who started the season with three consecutive 17th-place finishes, has implied he will travel to France for the Quiksilver Pro at the end of the month. But whether he'll compete in the remaining events is anyone's guess.
-- Pete Thomas
Photo: Mick Fanning of Australia competes during the Hurley U.S. Open of Surfing on July 26, 2009, in Huntington Beach, Calif. Credit: Jeff Gross / Getty Images