Kelly Slater wins Rip Curl Pro Portugal, moves closer to clinching 10th ASP World Tour title
Kelly Slater has moved a step closer to claiming an unprecedented 10th ASP World Tour title by winning the Rip Curl Pro Portugal, besting Jordy Smith Thursday in glassy 3- to 5-foot waves at Supertubos.
The victory gives Slater an almost 10,000-point lead over No. 2-ranked Smith with only two events remaining, and the iconic Floridian has a strong possibility of clinching at the next event -- the Rip Curl Pro Search, Oct. 30 through Nov. 10 in Puerto Rico.
"It’s obviously a very big deal for me," said Slater, 38. "If it happens, it will be a major accomplishment for me in my life. I’m fortunate to have an amazing circle of friends around me: my girlfriend Kalani, Belly [Stephen Bell], Travis [Lee] and a bunch of others. Today’s win puts me another step closer and we’ll see what happens in Puerto Rico."
Although composed and relatively under the radar throughout the event, Slater struck stealthily in the final, locking in two solid backhand waves in the shifting conditions, and staving off a late charge from the 22-year-old South African.
Smith fought valiantly throughout the 40-minute final, posting the highest single-wave score -- a 7.10 out of 10 for a backhand Superman air -- but was unable to find a worthy backup score.
"I guess I felt a little out of rhythm in the final," Smith said. "I was able to notch up one good one, but couldn’t find a backup. That’s the way it goes sometimes. I’m still happy with the result and the way my year has gone so I’m just staying positive and we’ll see how we end up."
The race for the 2010 title is now basically down to these top two contenders -- defending ASP World Champion and current No. 3-ranked Mick Fanning lost in Round 3 earlier this week, officially putting him out of contention.
Smith acknowledges the tall feat that lies ahead and is philosophical when discussing the remainder of the season.
"I’ve had a blast here in Portugal," Smith said. "We’ve had some really fun waves. I was stoked to be in the final with Kelly. I’m stoked to be in the race still with him. He’s someone I’ve looked up to my whole life and it’s an honor to be up there in the rankings next to him. I’m looking forward to the next event and hope we get some more fun wedges."
Rip Curl Pro Portugal men's final results:
1 – Kelly Slater (USA) 13.33
2 – Jordy Smith (ZAF) 11.43
Semifinal 1: Kelly Slater (USA) 16.03 def. Chris Davidson (AUS) 12.20
Semifinal 2: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 14.00 def. Jeremy Flores (FRA) 10.57
Quarterfinal 1: Chris Davidson (AUS) 9.50 def. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 7.50
Quarterfinal 2: Kelly Slater (USA) 15.24 def. Damien Hobgood (USA) 12.56
Quarterfinal 3: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 14.17 def. Owen Wright (AUS) 13.67
Quarterfinal4: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 13.70 def. Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 12.50
ASP World Title Race Top 5 (after Rip Curl Pro Portugal):
1. Kelly Slater (USA) 58,000 points
2. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 48,750 points
3. Mick Fanning (AUS) 41,250 points
4. Taj Burrow (AUS) 34,000 points
5. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 33,750 points
-- Kelly Burgess
Photos, from top: Kelly Slater won the Rip Curl Pro Portugal over Jordy Smith, moving one step closer to an unprecedented 10th ASP World Title. (Credit: © Scholtz / ASP); Slater is chaired up the beach as the 2010 Rip Curl Pro Portugal Champion. (Credit: © Cestari / ASP)