The 2011 ASP World Tour – Year End Review, Part 2
Eleven Contests, Eleven Titles, Progressive Surfing, Great Waves
After a year of great surfing, here is a look back at each of the ASP World Tour events. Despite criticism from online haters and surf media, the 2011 World Tour was surfing at it’s best. Whether the surf was large or small, the world got to witness full-on progression above the lip and in the tube.
The 2011 ASP World Tour had 11 events sponsored by only four corporations. Hurley had one, Rip Curl and Quiksilver each had three, and Billabong had four contests. Each event was a spectacle of the state of the art in surfing.
The Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast always kicks off the year at Snapper Rocks. Excitement was at an all time high as Kelly Slater dominated all other competitors for the first win of the season. Surfers like Alejo Muniz and Matt Wilkinson were standouts of the event, but could not keep it consistent enough to get to the finals.
The Rip Curl Pro Bell’s Beach was second and the event celebrated it’s 50 year anniversary with firing surf. Five days of solid double-overhead surf wrapped around the point and competitors tore it to pieces. When the event moved down the beach to Winkipop mid-way through, fans were treated to some insane tube riding and bizarre judging. After a tough won heat versus Taj Burrow, Santa Barbara pro Bobby Martinez made his infamous post-heat interview speech in which he stated “Hey, he’s not Curren and I’m not Occy,” among other things. Joel Parkinson went on to beat his friend Mick Fanning in the final.
Next up was the dreaded closeout beachbreak event at Rio. The Billabong Rio Pro was hated before it started. “Where is the Dream Tour,” fans cried. Not only did the ASP have to deal with that mess, but a judging error in the latter rounds would give rise to the greatest controversy in ASP history. In the quarter finals, local hero Adriano De Souza faced off against title contender Owen Wright. Wright stuck to the supposed “New Criteria” that he thought judges were looking for, progression with speed, power, and flow. A lofty Slob air and another air-reverse put Wright into the lead. Then as time ran out, on a bigger set wave, Adriano raced down the line and pulled an overhead backside floater on a heavy section. It was a committed and sick maneuver. But, the judges over-scored it hideously with an 8.23. The crowd went nuts. Adriano went nuts. Wright went to the judges. Although it was clearly overscored, the ASP went on to release an unusual statement after the event defending it’s judging. The public thought otherwise and, unfortunately, Adriano was blamed for the judges mistake. What’s sad is that Adriano was just trying to surf his best and was going for it. None of it was his fault, only the judges were to blame. Yet Adriano took the blame squarely on his shoulders.
The fourth event of the year was the Billabong Pro J-Bay in South Africa. By this time, crowd favorite Dane Reynolds had not competed in an ASP event all year, Bobby Martinez was a no show, and Kelly Slater was chasing swell in Fiji. A bleak forecast plagued the event and contest organizers were lucky to complete the contest at all. Julian Wilson and Josh Kerr were standouts throughout the event but could not get past finalists Mick Fanning and Jordy Smith. Jordy ended up on top with the win in front of his home crowd, family, and girlfriend.
Next stop was at the thumping tubes of Teahupo’o for the Billabong Pro Tahiti. Gigantic swell coincided with the contest to give the ASP a badly needed lift. In fact, it was the best Teahupo’o ever seen at the contest and the world’s best charged beyond belief. Surfers that were not known for big tubes put on performances of a lifetime as all competitors stepped up their game a few notches. Jeremy Flores pulled into anything and everything. Josh Kerr and Travis Logie were clear standouts. By the time the horn blew for the final heat, only Slater and Owen Wright were left standing. After an awesome exchange of heavy barrels, Slater walked away with the win. Owen’s performance left him as the only title contender left as Slater looked towards title number 11.
Event number six was a historical one. The Quiksilver Pro New York set an unprecedented record for prize money with a million dollar purse. The victor would walk away with $300,000 USD, the biggest first place check in pro surfing history. It was also the first time a World Tour event was held on the East Coast of the US. Although the waves were a pathetic knee high in the trials, a timely hurricane swell gave spectators and competitors perfect head hi peaks on the final days of the event. Kerr and Taj Burrow were throwing caution to the wind with incredible aerial surfing, but came up short in the final rounds. In a rematch from Tahiti, Wright and Slater faced off in the finals. This time Owen Wright one-upped Kelly and took the huge check. A competitive rivalry was officially on between the two and Slater looked stoked to have a challenger to spar with once again. On a side note, outspoken pro Bobby Martinez gave the his final post-heat rant blasting the ASP for adopting tennis-like rules. Possibly the best post-heat interview of all time! He was quickly disqualified from the tour and is now stoked to be surfing at home on his own schedule.
The ASP World Tour then headed to the West Coast for the Hurley Pro at Trestles. Although the waves were small, Trestles provided a valid venue for cutting edge performance surfing. It was hard to pick a standout because all of the Top 34 were ripping the skatepark-like ramps at Lowers. Notable exchanges occurred between Joel Parkinson and Julian Wilson, with the two sharing words in post-heat interviews. After Julian lost to Parko in their first encounter, Parko said Julian’s sick backside varial air was “ugly”. Julian met Parko in the next round on the following day and schooled Parko like a child. Adriano De Souza was ripping, and had a heated exchange with Taj Burrow. After the heat Adriano was being his passionate self and freaked out in the line-up, yelling at Taj and at Slater who was paddling out for the next heat. Classic stuff.
The Euro leg of the World Tour was up next as competitors crossed the pond for the Quiksilver Pro France. The first few days of the event saw some intense barrels as the surf pumped. But the swell deteriorated throughout the week. This left the door open for aerial wizard and ASP newcomer Gabriel Medina to blow the field away with the best aerials ever pulled in a World Tour event. He walked away with the win in only his second event on tour. The surf world was put on notice. Medina was for real.
After the French event, the tour headed down the coast to Portugal for the Rip Curl Pro. The swell was a dream. Perfect 6 to 8 foot Supertubos. Competitors still claim that this event had the best waves on tour in 2011 even when compared to Tahiti and Pipeline. Every heat was a tube fest as a-frame peaks offered sick barrels in both directions while breaking close to shore. Several ten point rides were awarded, but in the end it was Adriano De Souza and Kelly Slater in the final. Adriano defeated Slater after snagging the best tube of the final and completed the ride with a huge Adriano claim!
By the time the European leg had finished, there were only two surfers that were mathematically in the title race with Slater, Owen Wright and Joel Parkinson. As the tour headed back to the US for the Rip Curl Search in San Fransisco it was clear that Slater could win his 11th title on US soil. After his Round 3 win, the celebrations began and the Ke11y posters and hats were flying everywhere. Later that night, Slater himself did the point calculation and had to notify the ASP that he was not the champ yet. But no matter, Slater won his Round 4 heat the next day and became the official World Champion. Most people in the surf world thought that the San Francisco location would not offer good surf, but instead of giant outside walls there were fun head hi peaks on offer. As soon as the lefts started showing up more often, 17 year old Gabriel Medina was unstoppable. Medina punted huge airs and followed them up with impressive rail work. But it was his backside vertical snaps in the final that took him to victory. It was only his fourth event as a World Tour competitor and his second win! Amazing!
Finally, the World Tour made its’ way to the North Shore of Oahu for the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. The annual event is the most prestigious set of contests in the entire world with a 6-Star at Haliewa, a Prime at Sunset Beach, and the last World Tour contest of the year at Pipeline.
The Billabong Pipe Masters was as good as it gets. Perfect 10 – 12 foot ++ (Hawaiian scale) bombs detonated on the second and third reefs. Giant tubes funneled through the first reef and shot spit for 20 yards. As Round 1 began, so did the carnage. Cuts and bruises, a dislocated shoulder, and several broken boards all occurred in the first round of heats. Locals were dominating the tricky lineup. Kauai’s Evan Valiere and Oahu’s Marcus Hickman sent World Tour surfers packing for home after picking off the best waves of their heats. John John Florence received the day’s only 10 point ride from a perfect two barrel wave that was so good even John John claimed it! The waves were the best the contest had seen for a decade and it was a spectators dream as the natural arena of the area allowed for close up viewing of the massive pits. Going into the final rounds John John and Jamie O’Brien were the two men to beat. As the quarters began, Parko played it smart and ousted Jamie O. in a wave starved heat. Then Slater and John John faced off in the heat of the century. John John had it in the bag with 2 minutes left and then fell to his desire to catch every wave. He left Slater outside with priority. Slater caught a Backdoor drainer and advanced leaving the crowd speechless. Slater lost to Parko in the semis, but a statement was made for sure. Kieren Perrow went on to win the event with authority after being a runner-up last year. It was a perfect way to wrap up the season.
Despite being slammed with criticism from all sides, the ASP World Tour of 2011 was still one filled with excitement and all time performances by the world’s best surfers. Webcasts broke records for online viewers. ASP contests like the US Open (a Prime event) and the Quik Pro New York broke records for attendance and all of the prize money went through the roof! A new competitive rivalry emerged with Owen Wright and Kelly Slater. Modern performance surfing was pushed to new levels by Josh Kerr and Julian Wilson. The Next Generation came into the spotlight, spearheaded by 17 year old Gabriel Medina and 19 year old John John Florence. The Brazilian contingent broke onto the worldwide scene as they dominated Star, Prime, and World Tour events. Tahiti and Pipe served up massive tubes while the beachbreaks offered ramps for progressive aerials. 2011 definitely had it all. Bring on 2012! – Ryan Richardson
All photos courtesy ASP Images.