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The Wright Coast

9/12/2011
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2011 Quiksilver Pro New York Finals

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Owen Wright, Kelly Slater (and Hurricane Katia) made the Quik Pro N.Y. an event to remember. GalleryPhoto Gallery

Owen Wright has a vicious slob grab air and a mean frontside hook, but apparently he's also a quick learner. In late August, at the Billabong Pro Tahiti, Kelly Slater taught Wright a thing or two about surfing a final. After the two faced off to end a historic event, Slater even suggested that Wright hadn't studied the conditions properly.

The 21-year-old Australian regrouped, did his homework, then handed the 10-time ASP World Champ a defeat Friday at the Quiksilver Pro New York, his first of potentially many tour victories. Taking constructive criticism is the sign of a great competitor.

"I've always wanted to be in final with Kelly [Slater] and last week at Teahupo'o was great. I think Kelly is ready for payback already. How good is this? Look at these waves!" Wright exclaimed from the podium immediately following his win.

But Wright's 17.9-14.53 win wasn't the only plot to unfold. Obviously, the fact that the city of Long Beach, N.Y., almost canned the whole surf shebang is old news at this point. It's a mostly forgotten footnote compared to amazing Atlantic swell, vets falling off tour, ballistic crowds and aerial progression to make Travis Rice do a double take, but we need to be reminded of it. Because following the damage caused by the wrath of Hurricane Irene 10 days ago, the city of Long Beach, which had been all rosy about the prospects of a ASP World Tour event, decided to pull the plug on the headlining bands, skatepark, motocross demos and everything else planned for Quiksilver City.

All those side shows were needed to lure out thousand of NYC folk. Half the time, the masses are more concerned with some indie dance band and temporary tattoos than surfing. But something funny happened when the sideshows got axed. We were forced to watch surfing.

And with the focus returned to the sport of kings, there was no better time for Hurricane Katia to fire off crisp running lefts and barreling rights -- all well overhead. Katia swell was supposed to peak in the wee hours of the morning. But the old girl decided to keep on giving. New York had an honest-to-god surf contest and the final day was something to behold.

The quarterfinal heat to watch was the Kelly Slater/Josh Kerr rematch of Thursday's round four, wherein Kerr elevated aerial surfing and forced Slater to do the same. With harder offshore winds Friday, Kerr didn't stick as many big tricks and Slater willed a backside, no-hand barrel to move on.

Slater had to face Taj Burrow in the semifinal. New York may have been the last place you'd expect a tube riding showdown. But Burrow dog-doored a legit frontside grinder and Slater took several New York subway rides to advance in a final that also include some seven-hit, 150-yard waves from both surfers.

Owen Wright has never received the headlines that other young superstars have.

"I'm sure he doesn't mind," Slater said, "I'd put him up against Jordy [Smith] or Dane [Reynolds] in every kind of condition and I think he would end up probably winning more than not. He had a tough road through a lot of those heats. I mean, he's pulling guys like Julian [Wilson] who does huge maneuvers. I'm sure that rattled Julian a little bit. He steamrolled through everyone and then beat me in the final and probably made it look pretty easy. He's tough."

Wright proved himself over and over in this event, edging fellow young Aussie, Julian Wilson in the quarters (by half a point) and Brazilian assassin Alejo Muniz in the semis. But taking on Slater is a different story.

Wright wasted no time in the final and Miss Katia didn't disappoint. After what would be a throwaway 7, he connected down the beach for an amazing slob air and a 9.23. That backed Slater into a corner, a place where fans love to see him. The 10-time champ responded with a massive free-fall floater and turns all the way to the west jetty for an 8. When Wright amassed a throw-away 8.6 and then an 8.67, time became an issue. Needing a whopping 9.9, Slater went into a series of failed air attempts until Wright was eventually chaired up the beach by the Aussie boys.

"I actually talked to Jadson Andre before this event and he told me it would be one foot," Wright said. "I showed up over the weekend and sure enough it was one-foot. So I went into the city, saw some things there, and when I came back, we had swell. Today was just pumping. It was one of the best events of the year."

Wright moves up to the No. two slot in the world behind Slater, going into the Hurley Pro Trestles, which starts on Sept. 18.

QUIKSILVER PRO NEW YORK FINAL:
1 -- Owen Wright (AUS) 17.90
2 -- Kelly Slater (USA) 14.53

QUIKSILVER PRO NEW YORK SEMIFINALS RESULTS:
SF 1: Kelly Slater (USA) 19.07 def. Taj Burrow (AUS) 18.33
SF 2: Owen Wright (AUS) 14.84 def. Alejo Muniz (BRA) 9.63

QUIKSILVER PRO NEW YORK QUARTERFINALS RESULTS:
QF 1: Taj Burrow (AUS) 14.77 def. Jadson Andre (BRA) 14.37
QF 2: Kelly Slater (AUS) 15.50 def. Josh Kerr (AUS) 15.00
QF 3: Alejo Muniz (BRA) 12.10 def. Heitor Alves (BRA) 10.10
QF 4: Owen Wright (AUS) 12.93 def. Julian Wilson (AUS) 12.44

ASP WORLD TITLE TOP 10 (After Quiksilver Pro New York):
1. Kelly Slater (USA) 34950 pts
2. Owen Wright (AUS) 31,900 pts
3. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 30,200 pts
4. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 27,000 pts
5. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 26,750 pts
6. Josh Kerr (AUS) 25,600 pts
7. Taj Burrow (AUS) 25,250 pts
8. Mick Fanning (AUS) 23,000 pts
9. Michel Bourez (PYF) 20,500 pts
10. Jeremy Flores (FRA) 19,700 pts