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Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Here we go again ...

By Peter "Joli" Wilson
ESPN Action Sports

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Kelly Slater nailed his 46th World Tour victory and his third Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast title at Snapper Rocks in Australia on Wednesday, defeating defending champion Taj Burrow in a wave-starved final which hung in the balance until after the final siren had sounded.

There were only seven heats left to run in the Quiksilver Pro when the day began: quarters, semis and the final. On a normal contest day this would take around four hours to complete, but on Wednesday it took more than eight hours. A break from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. to wait out the high tide drew the day out. By the time the final hit the water, there was a reverse rip running back out along the sand banks, chopping up the waves and making it nearly impossible for two of the world's best surfers to even catch waves, let alone ride them.

"It was so frustrating to surf the final in such bad conditions after all the good surf we've had over the past few days," said Burrow as he was leaving the beach. "I can't get angry at Mother Nature, but the conditions were pretty ordinary for both of us."

On the other hand, Slater was just happy to be surfing Snapper Rocks with only one other person in the water. "Who wouldn't want to surf Snapper with only one other person out?" he answered a journalist when asked about the conditions. He then went on to thank the people of the Gold Coast for giving up their surf break, for pumping all the sand so the contest could run and, looking out at the massive crowd, he asked, "Does anybody work here on the Gold Coast, considering it's a Wednesday?"

Taj Burrow, winning battles but losing the war.

When asked, Slater gave some insight into his winning motivation. "I don't go out there to beat my opponent, I go out there to win my heat," he explained. "I hate sitting on the beach watching other people surfing; I'd rather be in the water, so that's how I get motivated to win."

Both Burrow and Slater would probably admit that the final was all about the mind games of finding the right spot to sit, jockeying for position in the lineup and trying to work each other over using the priority system.

Burrow, who won the four star Breaka Burleigh Pro just two weeks ago, was without a doubt the best surfer in this event; he consistently earned some of the highest scores each day of the competition, including the highest heat score of the event in a scintillating win over Adriano de Souza in Round 5. But it was Slater who was the form surfer of the day.

There's a running joke that the reigning world champion "doesn't do mornings," but Slater grabbed the first wave of his quarterfinal against Dusty Payne at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday and turned it into one of the waves of the contest: three clean barrels mixed with big transition turns on his first ride. Had it not been the first wave of the day, it may well have been a perfect 10, but with no frame of reference the judges went low and scored it in the 8s.

"I don't feel as though I've surfed that well all week," Slater said after the win over Payne. "But I'm feeling much better about it now."

Meet your Rookie Of The Year front-runner, Alejo Muniz.

If Burrow was the surfer of the event and Slater the surfer of the day, mention must be made of tour rookie Alejo Muniz. The 21-year-old Brazilian finally lost in the quarterfinals against Jordy Smith, but proved all week that the hype of his first campaign hasn't rattled him in the least.

"I've been dreaming of this for so long," Muniz said. "I didn't know what sort of result I'd get; I've never surfed at any of these these places so it's all a new experience for me. I'm very happy with how I've done here, and now I just have to go to Bells Beach and see what happens."

Plenty of people will be watching the current Rookie of the Year front-runner when he gets there, but not nearly as many as will be watching the 10-time champ. When asked whether he plans to go for No. 11 this year, Slater answered cryptically: "I'm a guy! How would I know?" And thus begins the latest edition of everyone's favorite World Tour game, What Will Slater Do? Stay tuned ...

QUIKSILVER PRO GOLD COAST FINAL MATCHUPS:
1: Kelly Slater (USA) 11.20
2: Taj Burrow (AUS) 10.17
QUIKSILVER PRO GOLD COAST SEMIFINAL MATCHUPS:
SF 1: Kelly Slater (USA) 16.77 def. Tiago Pires (PRT) 8.20
SF 2: Taj Burrow (AUS) 17.56 def. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 11.40
QUIKSILVER PRO GOLD COAST QUARTERFINAL RESULTS:
QF 1: Kelly Slater (USA) 15.40 def. Dusty Payne (HAW) 9.06
QF 2: Tiago Pires (PRT) 14.64 def. Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 14.40
QF 3: Taj Burrow (AUS) 17.30 def. Brett Simpson (USA) 11.60
QF 4: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 13.03 def. Alejo Muniz (BRA) 9.95
ASP WORLD TITLE TOP 5 (After Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast):
1. Kelly Slater (USA) 10,000 points
2. Taj Burrow (AUS) 8,000 points
3. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 6,500 points
3. Tiago Pires (PRT) 6,500 points
5. Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 5,200 points
5. Brett Simpson (USA) 5,200 points
5. Dusty Payne (HAW) 5,200 points
5. Alejo Muniz (BRA) 5,200 points