Of the three surfers in Heat 5, it was Kelly Slater who paddled out with the most to lose. With a 12th World Title hanging in the balance, he knew he needed to win in Portugal to stay in contention. But it was Matt Wilkinson, needing a strong result to requalify in 2015, who found the first barrel of the heat — and the best wave of the day to that point – to earn a 9.57 and get out in front. Wildcard and local surfer Nic von Rupp, meanwhile, kept pace in wave count if not scores.
But with barely more than five minutes left, Slater produced the kind of magic that has already helped him win 11 World Titles. Finding a late drop into a barrel, Slater made it out and finished with a few wrapping turns. He earned a 9.67 to win the heat, set the bar on the day and stay in the World Title race.
Reflecting on his neck-and-neck Title race with Medina, Slater said: “He’s hyper-competitive and he wants to win more than anybody else, just like I did when I was his age. You can see he loves to surf, he loves to get better… he’s got crazy skills.”
For the full run-down of today’s events click here: http://www.aspworldtour.com/posts/74712/live-blog-moche-rip-curl-pro-portugal-round-1