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Saturday, September 14, 2013
Updated: September 15, 2:49 PM ET
Hurley Pro crucial point in ASP World Tour

By Shane Beschen
XGames.com

The Hurley Pro at Lower Trestles in San Clemente, Calif., is upon us. The importance of this event can't be overstated, as it comes at a critical point in the year when momentum and points really start to count. The race for the 2013 ASP World Title couldn't be closer, and what happens at Lowers could prove to be the determining factor.

Lowers is undeniably the most high-performance wave in the world, and all of the competitors know it. They also know they will need to bring their A game to have any success. The question is, which approach to take? Some prefer a more traditional, full-railed performance, while others use the Lowers ramps to punt and progress. Both approaches are proven to work, it just depends on their application.

This is where the progressive surfers get torn between putting in an incredible performance or surfing more controlled to earn the heat win. When you know how to do an inverted air 360 and the crowd is on the beach wanting to see acts of greatness, it can be very difficult to hold back. The most progressive surfers in the world will be at this event. Dane Reynolds, John John Florence, Julian Wilson, Jordy Smith, Gabriel Medina, Kolohe Andino and, of course, the most successful surfer at Lowers, 11-time world champ Kelly Slater, will be on hand to show the world how the sport has evolved in recent years.

Slater has a near-perfect record at Lowers over the last decade, and with his recent runner-up finish in Tahiti adding fuel to his competitive fire, he will be very hard to beat. Slater's traditional surfing is second to none, but with the elevation of his air game over the last few seasons he comes to Lowers as the man to beat. He is currently sitting No. 1 in the world title race, and after the bittersweet finish to last year's season he will be looking to capitalize on this event.

Mick Fanning has been incredibly consistent this year and also has a good record at Lowers. Fanning will be very hard to beat as his decision-making and heat strategy are second to none, while his surfing is fast, precise and explosive. Sitting No. 2 in the world, he will definitely be focused as he knows he has to put a win on the board soon to keep up with Slater.

Joel Parkinson also has a winning record at Lowers, and thanks in large part to his win at the Oakley Pro in Keramas, Indonesia, he's vaulted back into the title hunt. Historically, Parko has received huge scores for his traditional surfing at Lowers. There's no reason that he'll alter his game plan too much as he looks to take the win. 

Smith has been on fire this year and is one the of guys who can really mix up the traditional and progressive. Smith has had some tough losses at Lowers in the past, but if he can put it all together he will be very tough to beat. The power of his rail turns will earn big scores and he can also launch big airs and throw tail at will. Smith has fallen off the title hunt a little, but if he can come up with a win at Lowers he will be right back in the mix.

There are also a handful of guys who aren't in the title race who could play a huge roll on how the title is decided. A few years ago at the Nike Lowers Pro, Andino surfed a heat against Dusty Payne where he quite possibly did the first real stalefish air in ASP history. Andino has been paying his dues on the tour since and is slowly building momentum and confidence. He has the repertoire to beat anyone at Lowers and he just might be ready to show the world that he deserves to be at the top. The wave is his home spot and he has a lot to prove. He could be a guy who takes down one of the contenders in the early rounds.

Florence, Wilson and Medina are three other surfers who also have the complete repertoire to beat anyone in the event and who are hungry to put their stamp on the Hurley Pro.