When you really break down the numbers, Pat Gudauskas' win over Kelly Slater in Round 3 of the Hurley Pro was perhaps the most improbable of the entire contest.
Gudauskas had never won a world tour event. Slater has won 53 of them. With a win over Slater, Gudauskas advances automatically into the quarterfinals of the Hurley Pro, which ties his best career world tour finish. Slater has made the final 8-of-12 times he's surfed in the contest at Lowers, and he's won six titles here.
So when the beach erupted with applause and revelry for Gudauskas, the hometown hero, it was well earned. With pretty much every shredder in San Clemente encamped on the point at Lowers in support of Gudauskas, he surfed a smart, disciplined heat, keenly aware of what happens when people make mistakes against Slater.
"I could hear the crowd, the roar gave me all this energy when the sets would come in, but I tried to hold it down and stick to the game plan," said Gudauskas. "My brothers and I have surfed Lowers like this all our lives, so I felt really comfortable out there and knew which were the ones that would hold up and give up scores."
For Slater, this upsets his bid for a record 12th ASP World Title. Going into the Hurley Pro he was the frontrunner in the ratings, but that will more than likely change as world number two Mick Fanning has a Round 5 heat ahead of him tomorrow.
"I'm happy for Pat," said Slater, ever the sportsman. "He's a great surfer and he's been on the losing end of several close heats and it's about time something went his way, but this result is a bummer. This is three bad results for me this year and I don't have much room to move."
Fanning was sitting in the channel waiting for his heat and watched Slater lose, and perhaps the world title race swing in his direction.
"The nerves crept in a little when I saw Patty take out Kelly, but I was able to block that out, buckle down and get through," said Fanning.
And to add a little more intrigue, in the final heat of the round defending world champ Joel Parkinson was tripped up by at tack-sharp Adam Melling. Parkinson's been mounting a solid title defense as of late, winning the Oakley Pro in Bali this summer to climb to No. 3 in the world, but his misstep at Lowers could prove costly. Like Slater, Parkinson burned up his two throw-away events earlier this year with bad results, which means he has to be on-point and make quarters, semis or finals from here until the end of the year if he's going to have a chance.
Saving the best for last, in the final heat of the day Julian Wilson ratcheted up the performance bar a few notches with a display of aerial surfing unmatched in the event thus far. He posted the highest wave score, 9.87, and the highest heat score, 19.07, of the day, and in the process earned himself a slot in the quarterfinals.
To that end, the war between traditionalist surfing and progressive surfing within the same ASP judging criteria continues to be the biggest challenge for the judges to decipher. I will always love good style and traditional surfing, but when you start to compare degree of difficulty between rail turns and inverted aerials the question must be asked, how many people are capable of the maneuver performed? In many cases this year the judging has gone back to the ways of old by the judges rewarding excellent scores to the guys who pick the good waves and do a bunch of "good" moves. But in their quest to balance the criteria they have once again turned their back on the progression side of the sport. Wilson's performance in Round 4 is a perfect example of what is capable at Lowers as he flew huge inverted airs and the judges had no choice but to reward him due to the severity of his moves. The funny thing is Wilson's capable of even more than what he showed today, and that could leave the judges pondering what is an "excellent" score?
Half of the quarterfinal draw is set. On one side sits Jordy Smith and Gudauskas, on the other is Wilson and Michel Bourez. Contest organizers are looking to finish the event tomorrow. Round 5 kicks off in the morning and by the end of the day we should have a champion -- who that will be is anybody's guess.
HURLEY PRO AT TRESTLES ROUND 3 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 17.00 def. Brett Simpson (USA) 15.87
Heat 2: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 15.30 def. Gabriel Medina (BRA) 14.87
Heat 3: Taj Burrow (AUS) 16.20 def. Kolohe Andino (USA) 14.67
Heat 4: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 16.00 def. Fred Patacchia (HAW) 9.43
Heat 5: Kai Otton (AUS) 15.17 def. Jeremy Flores (FRA) 14.07
Heat 6: Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 15.57 def. Kelly Slater (USA) 14.80
Heat 7: Mick Fanning (AUS) 15.17 def. Alejo Muniz (BRA) 14.87
Heat 8: Michel Bourez (PYF) 13.94 def. Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 13.80
Heat 9: Josh Kerr (AUS) 14.67 def. Bede Durbidge (AUS) 11.93
Heat 10: Travis Logie (ZAF) 14.47 def. Nat Young (USA) 11.73
Heat 11: Julian Wilson (AUS) 17.03 def. Filipe Toledo (BRA) 16.07
Heat 12: Adam Melling (AUS) 14.67 def. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 10.06
HURLEY PRO AT TRESTLES ROUND 4 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 15.60, C.J. Hobgood (USA) 15.33, Taj Burrow (AUS) 13.23
Heat 2: Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 15.23, Adriano de Souza (BRA) 13.40, Kai Otton (AUS) 13.03
Heat 3: Michel Bourez (PYF) 17.30, Mick Fanning (AUS) 16.80, Josh Kerr (AUS) 12.93
Heat 4: Julian Wilson (AUS) 19.07, Adam Melling (AUS) 14.03, Travis Logie (ZAF) 12.67
UPCOMING HURLEY PRO AT TRESTLES ROUND 5 MATCH UPS:
Heat 1: C.J. Hobgood (USA) vs. Kai Otton (AUS)
Heat 2: Adriano de Souza (BRA) vs. Taj Burrow (AUS)
Heat 3: Mick Fanning (AUS) vs. Travis Logie (ZAF)
Heat 4: Adam Melling (AUS) vs. Josh Kerr (AUS)