SOMEWHERE, Indonesia (Saturday, August 2, 2008) - Tiago Pires (PRT), 2008 Dream Tour rookie and current No. 39 on the ASP World Tour ratings, caused a sensational upset today, eliminating eight-time ASP World Champion and current ratings leader on the ASP World Tour, Kelly Slater (USA), from Rip Curl Pro Search competition in Round 3.
Running in solid six foot (2 metre) waves at the primary venue 'somewhere' in Indonesia, Round 3 of the Rip Curl Pro Search was treated to some fantastic performances, none moreso than Pires' come-from-behind victory over Slater. Needing a 7.16 in the dying moments, Pires watched a priority-holding Slater take the first wave of the set, leaving the European to pig-dog an incredible backdoor pit for an 8.40 and the win.
"There were two waves at the end of that heat and he went on the first one and I took the second and it turned out to be a really good wave," Pires said. "When I came out of the barrel and into the channel, everyone was screaming. This is the biggest win of my career. I have won a few ASP WQS events, but to beat Slater here in these conditions is amazing."
Pires' victory was well celebrated on the cliff by several members of the ASP Top 45 as the young Portuguese surfer is the first Dream Tour competitor to defeat Slater in 2008.
"When I came up through the cave it felt like I won the event," Pires said. "There were so many people screaming and cheering. It felt really good. I guess it's a big deal that no one else had beat him this year, but I've been training hard and I hope to be going much further in this event."
Slater, who has won a staggering four out of five events thus far on the 2008 ASP World Tour, was gracious in his defeat, congratulating his opponent while considering his tactical mistake.
"I knew I shouldn't have gone on that first wave," Slater said. "Congratulations to Tiago (Pires) as he surfed really well. He's definitely not one who I underestimate and he is probably one of the best barrel-riders in the world. It was one of those situations that I played through in my head about a minute before it actually happened, but that happens from time to time. Before the contest started, I said my luck would have to run out somewhere and I guess it was here."
Still sitting with a comfortable lead in the race for the 2008 ASP World Title, Slater will regroup and look towards the next event at Lower Trestles, California in September.
"It's an unfortunate result here - no one likes a 17th," Slater said. "However we get two throwaways and when I do that, I'm still counting four wins this year which is pretty good. Lowers has always been a good venue for me. It feels like my backyard and it is typically one where I do really well. You can never discount any one in any heat though, these are the best surfers in the world and they're all dangerous."
Mick Fanning (AUS), reigning ASP World Champion and former Rip Curl Pro Search winner (2005), competed immediately following Slater's elimination, comfortably advancing past Rodrigo Dornelles (BRA) 16.34 to 3.90.
"Our heat was so slow for waves it was unbelievable," Fanning said. "I was in the water at the end of Slater and Tiago's heat and when Tiago (Pires) came out of the barrel, the entire cliff erupted and I thought, 'wow, that sure isn't for us because nothing has happened yet.' Fortunately a few rolled through and I was in position to capitalize. I'm happy to be moving through to Round 4."
Fanning, currently sitting No. 4 on the 2008 ASP World Tour ratings, is in position to benefit from Slater's early elimination and regroup his 2008 ASP World Title defensive campaign.
"Tiago (Pires) has been putting in a lot of great performances all year long and it was only a matter of time before he took down a big name," Fanning said. "I think what it's done is really fired everyone up, especially the top seeds since it offers us a chance to gain some ground on Kelly (Slater)."
Joel Parkinson (AUS), current No. 2 on the 2008 ASP World Tour ratings, put in the strongest performance of the day, eliminating goofy-footer Royden Bryson (ZAF) with the day's high heat total of an 18.40 out of a possible 20.
"Indonesia is such a tidal spot," Parkinson said. "Some heats will have really good waves while others have a bit of a struggle. Thankfully for us, the waves really turned on there and I was able to grab a couple of good ones."
Kai Otton (AUS), current No. 12 on the 2008 ASP World Tour ratings, was another to cause a big upset today, eliminating dangerous goofy-footer Damien Hobgood (USA) from Rip Curl Pro Search competition.
"Damien (Hobgood) and I are really good friends and we've been surfing out here a lot the past few days," Otton said. "We knew we were seeded pretty close for this Round and we were watching all day yesterday to see what would happen - seeing who could lose or win so that we didn't end up with each other. That's how it goes sometimes and I was able to get a couple of really good ones towards the start and managed to get through."
Otton opened up with two lengthy forehand barrels, netting him a heat total of 17.50 out of a possible 20, to eliminate Hobgood and the young Australian hopes his momentum will carry him though the remainder of the event.
"I've had a pretty shocking year so far and I haven't managed better than 9th," Otton said. "I'm fired up to be here though and into Round 4 and I'm ready to break through with a result."
Surfline, official forecasters for the 2008 Rip Curl Pro Search, are calling for the current Southwest swell to maintain throughout the night and into tomorrow before fading tomorrow night.
Event organizers will reconvene tomorrow morning at 6:30am for a possible 7am start.
The event will be webcast LIVE via http://live.ripcurl.com/
RIP CURL PRO SEARCH ROUND 3 RESULTS
Heat 1: Bede Durbidge (AUS) 10.84 def. Daniel Wills (AUS) 9.77
Heat 2: Kai Otton (AUS) 17.50 def. Damien Hobgood (USA) 13.83
Heat 3: Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 6.86 def. Luke Stedman (AUS) 4.90
Heat 4: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 18.40 def. Royden Bryson (ZAF) 11.43
Heat 5: Kieren Perrow (AUS) 13.17 def. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 12.64
Heat 6: Bobby Martinez (USA) 15.43 def. Michael Campbell (AUS) 14.40
Heat 7: Dayyan Neve (AUS) 17.43 def. Tim Reyes (USA) 11.83
Heat 8: Tiago Pires (PRT) 17.57 def. Kelly Slater (USA) 16.33
Heat 9: Mick Fanning (AUS) 16.34 def. Rodrigo Dornelles (BRA) 3.90
Heat 10: Bruce Irons (HAW) 15.50 def. Tom Whitaker (AUS) 6.24
Heat 11: Mikael Picon (FRA) 14.00 def. C.J. Hobgood (USA) 5.67
Heat 12: Ben Dunn (AUS) 14.43 def. Jeremy Flores (FRA) 9.17
Heat 13: Taj Burrow (AUS) 13.30 def. Ben Bourgeois (USA) 8.43
Heat 14: Dean Morrison (AUS) 10.10 def. Roy Powers (HAW) 9.60
Heat 15: Andy Irons (HAW) 17.33 def. Neco Padaratz (BRA) 9.34
Heat 16: Chris Ward (USA) 14.84 def. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 8.67
RIP CURL PRO SEARCH ROUND 4 MATCH-UPS
Heat 1: Bede Durbidge (AUS) vs. Kai Otton (AUS)
Heat 2: Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) vs. Joel Parkinson (AUS)
Heat 3: Kieren Perrow (AUS) vs. Bobby Martinez (USA)
Heat 4: Dayyan Neve (AUS) vs. Tiago Pires (PRT)
Heat 5: Mick Fanning (AUS) vs. Bruce Irons (HAW)
Heat 6: Mikael Picon (FRA) vs. Ben Dunn (AUS)
Heat 7: Taj Burrow (AUS) vs. Dean Morrison (AUS)
Heat 8: Andy Irons (HAW) vs. Chris Ward (USA)