Two wins in four events -- that's a huge deal for Tahiti's Michel Bourez, who beat California's Kolohe Andino in the final of the ASP World Tour's Rio Pro on Monday. With this latest win under Bourez's belt, he was able to climb into fourth in the world in ASP rankings. And with that, the topic of the first French Polynesian world champ immediately takes over the conversation.
Meanwhile, Kelly Slater moved into the top spot on the ASP World Tour.
"As soon as you have a win you think about the world title," said Bourez following the win, "but I compete against the best surfers in the world, Kelly [Slater], Joel [Parkinson], Mick [Fanning], they're all still in it, so it's going to be tough."
Winning the second event of the 2014 season at Margaret River, Australia, Bourez stumbled with an early-round loss at Bells Beach. Unsure of what to expect in Rio, Bourez slowly built momentum throughout the contest.
"It's always tricky, always changing here," said Bourez. "For me, winning two events in the same year, it is incredible."
Meanwhile, Andino reveled in the opportunity to play the role of giant killer. Beating Fanning in Round 1, perhaps the biggest heat win of his career came in the semifinals when he upset 11-time world champion Slater. Going into Brazil, he was ranked 21st in the world, but he now leaves the country further up the rankings in a very respectable 12th place spot.
"CJ Hobgood told me that winning a lot of events in a row can be hard, but winning a lot of heats in a row can be easy," explained Andino of his sudden reversal of fortune. "I don't know what changed, but I was just having fun."
"Kolohe's been struggling for two years now to get a good result, and it finally came together for him," said Slater, who now takes over the top spot on the ASP World Tour ratings. "I think he came in with a lot of hype and a lot of expectations and I think it's hard for anyone, even the most seasoned guys, to deal with [that] kind of pressure."
The final itself was a bit anticlimactic. Bourez put the stamp on the heat with a seven-point ride, while Andino was left scrapping for air sections that never arrived.
"I was nervous with the wind being perfect for airs on the right, and it's always the grom that can make big things happen," said Bourez.
Up next, the world tour will turn its attention to the South Pacific and Fiji's Tavarua, where one would assume the Tahitian would be heavily favored. In fact, Bourez has never made a heat there, which makes the title race even more interesting, especially considering how dominant Slater has been there over the years.
"I've never had a result in Fiji, so we'll see," said Bourez. "I'm just going to go out there, watch Kelly and see what he's doing."