Utilizing his trademark high flying aerial repertoire, South Africa’s Jordy Smith literally flew into the quarterfinals of the Rip Curl Pro Portugal, posting the highest single ride score, a near perfect 9.93 out of 10, and the top two-wave heat tally of 17.16 yesterday.
Competing in Round 4, the so called ‘exhibition round’ in the new ASP World Tour format where the 12 surfers remaining in the event contest non elimination three-man heats, Smith boosted himself well above the lip of both the left and right breaking waves, successfully completing a wide range of moves in the air including a gravity defying 450 degree rotation that earned his top score.
“That score didn’t change my approach much actually,” Smith said after the heat victory. “Jadson Andre and Owen Wright can pull big scores out at any moment. I knew I couldn’t ease up and needed a solid backup score.”
Kelly Slater (USA), 38, past nine-time ASP World Champion and current ASP World No. 1, dominated his Round 4 heat at the backup venue of Belgas, taking advantage of the non-elimination format
“This round definitely allows you to relax and loosen up a bit for sure,” Slater said. “Of course, winning takes the pressure off a little bit and let’s you bypass a round on the last day.”
By reaching the quarter finals Slater is well positioned to capture an unprecedented 10th ASP World Tour Title this year. While Fanning and fellow Aussie and early season rankings leader Taj Burrow are still mathematically capable of snatching the crown, second placed Smith is the only one with a realistic chance of preventing Slater’s historic achievement.
However, sticking to the mantra of “I’m just going out and having fun” that has seen Smith post his best results in his third season at the highest level, including his first event victory and leading the rankings through the middle of the year, the South African remains nonchalant when discussing his plans for the end of the year.
“It would be nice to win but there’s more to life than just the title,” Smith said. “It’s an incredible opportunity for me at my age and I’m just looking forward to the end of the year. I’m enjoying myself.”
RIP CURL PRO PORTUGAL MEN’S ROUND 4 RESULTS:
Heat 1:Adrian Buchan (AUS) 14.77, Michel Bourez (PYF) 9.03, Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 5.50
Heat 2:Kelly Slater (USA) 13.60, Damien Hobgood (USA) 10.83, Chris Davidson (AUS) 6.08
Heat 3:Jeremy Flores (FRA) 14.07, Travis Logie (ZAF) 13.73, Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 10.17
Heat 4:Jordy Smith (ZAF) 17.16, Jadson Andre (BRA) 13.57, Owen Wright (AUS) 12.07
RIP CURL PRO PORTUGAL MEN’S ROUND 5 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 1:Michel Bourez (PYF) vs. Chris Davidson (AUS)
Heat 2:Damien Hobgood (USA) vs. Matt Wilkinson (AUS)
Heat 3:Travis Logie (ZAF) vs. Owen Wright (AUS)
Heat 4:Jadson Andre (BRA) vs. Patrick Gudauskas (USA)