Kelly Slater rewrote the record books by defeating John John Florence in the final of the Billabong Pro Tahiti, in flawless and pumping 1.5 to 2.5 metre waves at the fabled break of Teahupo’o on Tuesday.
The 11-time World Champion improved on his own record setting legacy by claiming his 55th World Championship Tour title and his fifth win in Tahiti; delivering four perfect 10 point rides in the same event.
“When I look back that will for sure be one of the best wins I have ever had,” said an elated Slater. “To have John John [Florence] in the final is a dream for me.
It is no secret that I am towards the tail-end of my career. John John and Gabriel [Medina] are on their way up and those guys are just monsters.
John John is everybody’s favourite surfer, so I want to see how many heats I can get with him before I am done, and to have him out here where he and Gabriel are the favourites. This is a really special time for me. I am stoked.”
The win was Slater’s best result of the season and his first CT event win in 32 months, since the Billabong Pipe Masters in 2013.
Since June the 44 year-old he earned 3rd place in Fiji, 5th place Jeffreys Bay and won in Tahiti which has elevated him 28 places to No. 8 in the rankings going into the last four events of the season, all of which he has won multiple times.
“It just came together for me,” continued Slater. “I was on the right waves, I was in sync and totally relaxed the whole time.
To be in that Final with John John and lose would have been no problem for me. I was taking each heat as a bonus. I have had such a bad run for me historically over the last couple of years that anything was going to be good.”
The runner-up finish for Florence is his best ever result at Teahupo’o and sees the 23-year-old claim the Jeep Leader Jersey from Matt Wilkinson (AUS) who has held it since the first event of the year.
South Africa’s Jordy Smith led for most of his Round 5 heat on the final day before eventual semi-finalist Adrian ‘Ace’ Buchan (AUS) slotted into an incredibly deep tube and emerged with a 9.10 and the heat win.
The Durbanite matched his career best 9th place finish in Tahiti and moved up two places to equal fifth place with Julian Wilson (AUS) on the Jeep Rankings going into his more favoured events at Trestles, near his new home in California where he won in 2014.
The next stop on the 2016 Samsung Galaxy WSL Championship Tour will be the Hurley Pro and Swatch Women’s Pro at Trestles in California, which will see the battle for this season’s World Titles heat up as the world’s best surfers take on Lowers from September 7 -18, 2016.
Highlights, results, heat reviews and more form from the Billabong Pro Tahiti are available at WorldSurfLeague.com
BILLABONG PRO TAHITI FINAL RESULTS:
1: Kelly Slater (USA) 19.67
2: John John Florence (HAW) 15.23
BILLABONG PRO TAHITI SEMIFINAL RESULTS:
SF 1: Kelly Slater (USA) 18.40 def. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 16.10
SF 2: John John Florence (HAW) 19.66 def. Gabriel Medina (BRA) 19.23
BILLABONG PRO TAHITI QUARTERFINAL RESULTS:
QF 1: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 18.16 def. Kolohe Andino (USA) 16.00
QF 2: Kelly Slater (USA) 19.27 def. Bruno Santos (BRA) 17.43
QF 3: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 17.90 def. Josh Kerr (AUS) 13.40
QF 4: John John Florence (HAW) 17.34 def. Julian Wilson (AUS) 16.60
BILLABONG PRO TAHITI ROUND 5 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 1: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 16.77 def. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 12.60
Heat 2: Kelly Slater (USA) 20.00 def. Keanu Asing (HAW) 14.70
Heat 3: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 15.43 def. Jadson Andre (BRA) 14.33
Heat 4: John John Florence (HAW) 18.30 def. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 15.90
2016 WSL Jeep Leaderboard Top 5 (after Billabong Pro Tahiti):
1. John John Florence (HAW) 39,900 pts
2. Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 36,000 pts
3. Gabriel Medina (BRA) 35,700 pts
4. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 26,200 pts
5. Julian Wilson (AUS) 25,200 pts Jordy Smith (ZAF) 25,200 pts