One pleased Mr Fanning. ASP/Kirstin
Kelly Slater Eliminated In Portugal, Mick Fanning Eyes Title
This morning at Peniche, two things happened sequentially that could have a profound effect on who wins this year's world title: Mick Fanning won his heat, and immediately afterwards, Kelly Slater was beaten by Frederico Morais. You know what was riding on Kelly's heat, right? Burning into this event, Kelly and Mick were locked in a world title race. Here's a vaguely helpful statement: A number of different scenarios would mean different outcomes and a possible title crowning at Peniche. The most generous of which suggested that if Mick made the semis or better, then Kelly would need a ninth to take the race to the North Shore. While Mick certainly ain't into the biz end yet, Kelly's loss makes life easier for Mick. If Mick makes the semi finals, the world title is his. So, how'd it unfold?
Supertubos is small and chopped-out. In the first heat of the day, Mick beats Francisco Alves. Kelly and Frederico then paddle out. The heat is unremarkable, and to cut to that pretty little chase, Kelly needs a 6.91 with 10 seconds remaining. He takes off on a right and throws a frontside rotation to the wind. It's hard to know who's concentrating more: Kelly, Frederico, Kelly's posse (including Stephen Bell, Trav Lee, Steve Sherman, Kalani Miller and Terry Hardy), or Mick, who tries not to crush the water bottle in his hand. All eyes see the feet come unstuck, and Mick slaps himself a high five in his mind.
Now, as stated, this is far from over. Mick still needs to get through a max. of four and min. of three heats. If he doesn't, well, we all get to enjoy watching the fight for the biggest cup at Pipeline.
Below is Kelly's incredibly candid interview after the loss. Carrying himself in such a way after a blow like this just reaffirms exactly why he's the greatest thing ever to happen to competitive surfing:
"Not much to talk about really. To go out there, I didn't have a whole lot of game plan. I was watching Mick's heat and he was struggling to get 5.5s and 6s. The sets seemed like they were closed-out, the small ones were pretty kinda fat and flat, and I just didn't have much of a game plan. I've just been having trouble being very inspired by the surf at the last three events. My performance has probably shown that. And y'know, he (Frederico) just got the better of me this morning. He had the better waves, and he capitalised on it, made a coupla big moves, got multiple turns for a wave, and, uh, I'm sorta glad it's over now, to be honest (laughs).
"I don't know if I'll watch much (more of the event) to be honest. I think I might leave tonight or tomorrow. It doesn't look like the surf's gonna be that good all this week, it'll be onshore wind and get a bit bigger. But it'll probably be messy surf for the remainder of the event. I'd have to ask Renato (Hickel) or look at the numbers myself, but I think if Mick makes the final, maybe I'm out, if he doesn't, then I can go to Pipe with it. So, hopefully he fails to get that far, at least I can have a shot at Pipe.
"I'm expecting now that I at least need to win or make the final (at Pipe) to have a shot at it. And, hope that Mick's not in that with me if I make it that far at Pipe. We got almost two months now, so I'm gonna go do some rehab, get my body back together, try to get my mind back in it. If this week works out, great, if not, y'know, Mick's been the strong performer of the year obviously, he's been great at every event. It's hard to beat a guy like that. I've been sorta highs and lows. I've had some good results and I've had some terrible results. I've had probably some of my better performances ever, and some of my worst ones. It's just been one of those years. It's up and down.
(When asked how long it takes to process something like this:) "I think I'm alight now. I thought, five minutes left in that heat, I need a five, I need a six, I need almost a seven. I was kinda processing it in the moment, just going, well, this could be over, and I could just not have to sit around and wait for bad surf. Sometimes you just feel that way, y'know? After 20 years on tour, I'm not trying to say anything bad, sometimes you just get frustrated with the conditions you have no control over, and after 20 years, it's hard to really care when it's like this. So I'm happy for him to get through, and Mick's super motivated. He's a good friend of mine, and that's all out the window when you're trying to compete, but he's a great guy and if he wins it then good for him. If I somehow get a chance at Pipe and could win, it'd be a spectacular thing for me, but we'll see how it goes."
Here's a storyboard of how it happened. Mick's reaction might just be the best piece of live surf contest broadcasting in the medium's history. Bravo, Mr Fanning.