World title race? Yes, we're in for one of the best in recent memory. With his win this weekend, Mick Fanning is back in the hunt (nearly exactly where he was at this point last year), Kelly Slater solidified his top spot by posting a second-place result, and Jordy Smith made the quarters, which isn't half bad. So what does this mean for the final three events of the season?
We posed the question to our resident surf statatian Mike Newman. "Kelly can still be caught by three or four different guys in the last three events," answered Newman. "Jordy, Mick, Taj and even Dane can catch him. Of course, it means Dane would have to win the last three events and Kelly be hit by a truck on his way to Portugal, and Jordy, Mick and Taj would probably have to be in the car with Kelly, but Dane still has a glimmer of hope."
Looking at 2010's results thus far, and factoring in the two throw away events that are granted to each surfer, Slater leads Smith by 8,750 points, Fanning by 10,500, and Burrow and Reynolds are a bit further back from there.
In one of those rules in pro surfing that about one tenth of one percent of the population understands, the throw-away factor could be the deciding factor. Smith and Fanning are both at a disadvantage when the ratings are adjusted, as Smith's throwing away a fifth and a seventeenth, and Fanning's throwing away two ninths, while Slater drops a ninth and a seventeenth. In a nutshell that translates into Smith and Fanning losing 2,000-plus more points than Slater. Confusing? Yes. But we're getting to that time of year.
And in terms of the upcoming Rip Curl Pro in Portugal, even if Smith and Fanning flare out in the second round and Slater wins, they can still catch him in the final two events of the season. On the other hand, Burrow and Reynolds need to make the finals or semis to keep their names in the conversation, and then they need to keep that pace going into the homestretch, which is the real test for both.
"Ultimately it is a race of three, and if all three surfers make the finals rounds of each of the next three events, any one of them can win this title," tells Newman. "It just depends on where they finish in the last eight finals rounds of the year. I'd love to see it come down to Hawaii, and it looks like it probably will."