Kelly Slater (USA), 37, reigning nine-time ASP World Champion, has claimed the 2009 Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro over an in-form Adriano de Souza (BRA), 22, in clean three-to-four foot (1 metre) waves at the main site of Praia Vila.
Event No. 4 of 10 on the 2009 ASP World Tour, the Hang Loose culminated in a dramatic finale with perennial ASP World Title threats all pushing one other towards the finish line.
Despite the Brazilian smashing his way out to an early lead, Slater found his form mid-heat with a 9.27 out of a possible 10 for a series of high-risk maneuvers, exhibiting a near-perfect variety of repertoire. Not satisfied with only one high score, Slater nailed the coffin shut with an 8.67 in a dying minutes to secure his 41st ASP World Tour victory. “There were much better waves in the Final than there were for my Semifinal,” Slater said. “Adriano (de Souza) found a pretty good rhythm early on and posted some pretty good scores, but I felt comfortable out there and felt that the waves would come to me if I were patient. Both of my scoring rides allowed me to a bunch of maneuvers and I felt that the scores were maybe a little high, but I haven’t had many good scores this year, so it was bound to go my way at some point.”
Nearly pulling out of both the Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro and the Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay altogether, Slater made a last-minute decision to come to Brazil for the fans, but his journey here was riddled with delayed flights, visa complications and missing baggage. After a Round 1 loss on a borrowed board, the Slater juggernaut built momentum throughout the event, riding everything from self-shaped, asymmetrical quad-fins to epoxies to his bread and butter performance boards.
“I definitely feel like I sharpen as the event moves into the later rounds,” Slater said. “I started out pretty slow in Brazil, and I wasn’t even planning on coming initially. I rode borrowed boards, ones that I shaped, epoxies, everything and I definitely think I found my formula today. I actually called my girlfriend before the Final and said, ‘every time I show up to an event after trying to pull out, I win.’ I guess that held true today. I have less pressure on myself and am free to perform to the best of my abilities.”
Slater’s win today breaks his worst slump ever as an ASP World Tour campaigner, three 17ths in three events in 2009, and rockets the Floridian from 25th to No. 9 on the ASP World Tour ratings. Although a mountain of challenges still stand between Slater and an unprecedented 10th ASP World Title, today’s victory has re-ignited the competitive fire for him.
“I feel like I have all those guys (ASP World Title contenders) right where I want them,” Slater said. “I don’t feel like I have any pressure on me, and I tend to do my best when I have no pressure. We’re coming up on Jeffreys Bay, which is probably my best event historically and hopefully I can build off my result here today.”
Next stop on the 2009 ASP World Tour will be the Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay in South Africa from July 9 – 19, 2009.