There are plenty of surfers to watch in the ninth event of what we're now calling the "Kelly Slater Title Watch Tour," but before we get to them, let's recap where things stand in the march toward a historic tenth world title for Mr. Slater:
Rip Curl Pro Search Final
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Slater claimed his tenth title, and then went on to win the 2010 Rip Curl Search. In case you missed them, here's a few of the more memorable moments from a historic day. Gallery
Jordy Smith is the only surfer who can still feel the chop from Slater's wake. If Slater wants to get this thing over with and not worry about Smith, he needs a third place finish or better. If Slater gets a fifth or a ninth, Smith can take the fight to Hawaii with a first. If Slater gets a thirteenth or a twenty-fifth, Smith needs a third. And if Smith get a fifth or worse, than Slater will be champion even with a twenty-fifth.
Considering Smith has finished second, fifth, and fifth in the last three events, maybe it would be premature to crown Slater before the opening bell. Then again, considering Slater has finished first, second, and first in that same span, maybe it's not premature at all.
But there are more than two surfers headed to the fifth-ever Rip Curl Search event, aren't there? Of the five events -- at Reunion Island, Mainland Mexico, Chile, Bali, and Portugal -- 32 current tour surfers have competed previously. Four others are first timers, while two surfers have won The Search before -- Mick Fanning and Andy Irons have both won twice.
So who -- besides Slater and Jordy Smith -- should you keep an eye on? Well, there's Mick Fanning. He's not too bad. He won The Search in Reunion and Portugal and, while he's out of the title race, he's win heat win percentage in Search events is 86, making him the favorite.
Then there's Mr. Consistent, Damien Hobgood. In four starts, he has three "keepers," including a runner-up finish in Chile and a fifth in Portugal. His win percentage is only 65, due to having missed the first event at Reunion, but his Quarterfinal finish a few weeks ago at Rip Curl Pro put him back in the top 10 and might indicate that he has momentum. Plus, Florida boys have spent more time in Puerto Rico than anyone else on tour.
As for the young guard, Owen Wright didn't quite quench his frustration from his wildcard performance in Portugal last year, when a ruptured eardrum forced him to bow out of the Semifinal, with a fifth place finish a few weeks ago. As the highest rated rookie on Tour at seventh, Puerto Rico offers him a chance to corner the race for Rookie Of The Year.
2010 Hurley Pro Event Rankings
A Surfers Ratings Explained:
Add the sum of events surfed to the number of final 16 heats surfed. Divide that number by the surfer's average event result. Then add bonus points for heats surfed in the final 16 (1st = 1.0, 2nd = 0.5, 3rd = 0.25, 5th = 0.1).
SAMPLE: Kelly Slater
(9 events + 13 finals = 22)
(22 / 7.67 ave result = 2.868)
(2.868 + 3.50 bonus points = 6.370)
2010 The Search Puerto Rico Rookies (Current ASP Rank):
Jason Andre (10)
Bret Simpson (20)
Adam Melling (25)
Dusty Payne (28)