Kelly Slater Eliminated at Telstra Drug Aware Pro at Margaret River23/03/2012 12:47PM WST
Eleven times world champion Kelly Slater has been eliminated in the Round of 24 at the Telstra Drug Aware Pro, ending an amazing morning of surfing at Margaret River.
Slater faced a tough heat against 2008 Margaret River champion Tom Whitaker in clean waves that were offering up nice barrels all morning on the right hander. He began the heat quickly, scoring a right hand barrel and coming out into a lay-back snap re-entry but could not finish cleanly as the wave closed out on the shallow reef. He scored an 8.23 to take the lead but this was soon match by Whitaker with a solid right hander which he hit two vertical manoeuvres, scoring a 6.50. He then backed this up with another big right to score an 8.70 and take the lead from Slater who had caught a number of rights, regularly getting barrelled but struggling to finish any of the waves with his normal style and composure.
It soon turned into a classic showdown as the minutes counted down at the end of the heat and Slater needing a 6.98 to progress. As the final minutes loomed and Whitaker held priority, the Indian Ocean produced one last set to decide the heat. Whitaker committed to the first wave of the set, a large right that allowed him two vertical re-entries before landing a floater on the close out section on the inside reef. He then had to wait as Slater took the next wave in the set, also choosing to go right.
Slater took the wave dropping into a solid shoulder and hitting it with all his might. He raced across the wave hitting two more turns before finishing with one last turn over the dry inside reef where he sat to await the judges scores. Slater’s scores came in first, with the judges awarding him an 8.33 and temporarily sending him into the lead, as the two surfers waited for Whitakers score with him needing more than a 7.86 to win. As the scores dropped in, Whitaker received a 7.97 for his final wave to take the heat by 0.1 of a point.
After the heat a disappointed Slater said “It really came down to me falling on that last manoeuvre on my first wave. I had a feeling at the time that it might come back to cost me later in the heat. I thought if I made it I probably would have got nines and that would have been the difference. But then I thought I had done enough on my last wave to win it but I did not see his wave so I did not really know”.
Whitaker was ecstatic to beat the iconic Slater. “I just had a game plan to go out there and try to pick the best waves and surf them to the best of my ability,” said Whitaker who caught only three waves in the thirty minute heat. “Even if he got the medium ones he is probably going to beat you so then I was just hoping for a little bit of luck,” he said. “When you surf against Kelly the pressure is off really as everyone expects him to whip you. It was great to win, I love Margies and I just love the big waves”.