Kelly Slater wins 2016 Billabong Pro Tahiti
Don't call it a comeback
It's been two years since Kelly Slater won a Championship Tour event, but with a commanding performance at the Billabong Pro Tahiti, he broke his losing streak. It is his 55th Championship Tour win and his fifth at Teahupo'o, but what speaks even louder than the stats is that he did it in the most dominating of fashion. En route to the final, Slater posted a Perfect 20 heat total in his Round 5 matchup with Keanu Asing. This is only the ninth time a perfect heat has been achieved in 40 years of professional surfing and the third time Slater has accomplished this feat. Despite a strong opening from Asing, the Slater juggernaut picked up momentum throughout the back half of the heat, posting a Perfect 10, an excellent 8.10 and then another Perfect 10 to seal the win and etch another achievement in the history books.
A little jealous
Besides winning the contest, Slater also received the A.I. Award for his performance (the award is given in memory of the late world champion Andy Irons). "It means a lot," Slater said. "Andy and I had a really special relationship. Those years that Jeremy Flores and Owen Wright won it, I'll admit I was a little jealous."
Back on top
Having more fun than competitors half his age, Slater was as stoked as ever to be in Tahiti and winning again.
When it was all over
"I felt as clear about my ability and my decisions as I ever have," said Slater when it was all over.
Top spot on the tour
John John Florence didn't win the contest, but with a second place finish, he did earn enough World Surf League ratings points to take over the top spot on the 2016 tour. Now ranked first in the world with four events left in the season, the world title is his to lose.
The Medina versus Florence semifinal was important for more reasons than it being surfing's best rivalry right now. Whoever won was going to take over the World Surf League gold leader jersey. Despite a perfect 10 and a 9.23, it wasn't Medina's day.
Always dangerous and always stylish, Medina toys with the waves at Teahupo'o.
John John Florence's run at the final began with a tough heat against Joel Parkinson. Parko was in impeccable form all contest long, but Florence's tube skills were too much. He finished with an 18-point total, and more importantly, he made the quarterfinals and took over the WSL rating lead.
Making the second quarterfinal appearance of his career, Kolohe Andino can hold his head up high after this result. It moves him up just outside of the top 10. And with Lowers coming up, it gives him some positive momentum.
Wild card Bruno Santos played the role of spoiler as he eliminated Matty Wilkinson in Round 3 (potentially costing him a world title), and then in Round 4, he beat Kelly Slater. His quarterfinal rematch against Slater didn't disappoint. Unfortunately he wasn't able to find the exit of a couple good ones and was knocked out by the eventual champ.
Hunting down waves
"I made one mistake, but I don't think I could have beat him," Josh Kerr said after losing to Medina. Kerr did a good job of hunting down waves in this quarterfinal heat, but Medina was able to put himself on the ones with more scoring opportunity.
Out of steam
For Julian Wilson, his run at Teahupo'o ends with him sitting fifth in the world. Beating Florence in the quarters would have been nice, but the Hawaiian was on too much of a roll and Wilson appeared to somewhat out of steam.
Blown out of the water
"At least one old guy is going to be in the final," joked Slater before his semifinal heat against Ace Buchan. Buchan surfed impeccably throughout the contest, but in the end Slater did to him what he did to everyone else in this contest -- he blew him out of the water.
Matt Wilkinson held the gold leader jersey all season, but after getting knocked out of the contest in Round 3, all he could do was watch as Florence put the pedal to the metal and took over the pole position.