The ASP Men's World Title race, which was wide open and complicated just a couple weeks ago, has gotten pretty simple: At the Rip Curl Pro Portugal, Kelly Slater's shocking second round loss to wildcard Frederico Morais gave Mick Fanning an opportunity to win the title. Fanning came one heat away from doing so, losing to Kai Otton in the quarterfinals. Since the two-time world champion couldn't find a back up score in the warbly closeouts at Supertubes, Slater now still has a chance to steal the crown from him at the upcoming Billabong Pipeline Masters, which starts on Dec. 8.
Slater, who's gunning for World Title no. 12, has a chance to win it at Pipe, but it's a slim one. Fanning is still in control: If he makes it to the semifinals he will be this year's champion, no matter what Slater does.
If Fanning makes it to the quarters, but then loses, Slater has to win the event to steal the title. In fact, in every scenario, Slater must earn a victory to have any shot at no. 12.
Joel Parkinson and Jordy Smith were both eliminated from title contention in Portugal.
Fanning tried to see the positive after his loss to Otton at the Rip Curl Pro. He told the ASP, "I've had a lot of slow heats this year, snuck through a few, but you know every now and then one's going to go your way. It probably made it a little bit more significant with what was on the line at that time."
Slater, meanwhile, seemed to have thrown in the towel after going down in Round 2 at the same contest. "Back to the States for me now after a less then stellar performance in Europe," he wrote on Instagram. "You ever have one of those days or weeks or months where it's just not happening for you? Hard to take the sting out of a loss you know could have been averted with a couple of #BetterChoices."
Slater's mood noticeably improved after Fanning's exit from the contest gave his Title bid a new life. "Thank you @ottz16," he posted again. "I know you're just doing your job but I owe you one. Things just got way more interesting for the finish of the year. Counting my blessings."
You've got to hand it to Slater -- not only he the most dominant competitive surfer of all time, but he's one of the few pros that correctly uses "you're" and "your" on social media.
The Pipe Masters can't get here soon enough.