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SLATER DOMINATES DAY ONE OF QUIKSILVER PRO JAPAN

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After relocating approximately half an hour’s drive north from the base camp of Hebara to the smallish but fun waves at Shidashita, it was all Kelly Slater (USA) in day one of the Quiksilver Pro Japan.

After laying claim to three victories on this year’s Foster’s ASP Men’s World Tour, Slater was far and wide the standout of the first round showing the red hot form that has taken him to six world titles and has established him as the greatest competitive surfer of all time.

Posting a 9.33 out of 10.0 on his top-scoring wave after executing a number of incredibly fast bottom-to-top turns, Slater put his stamp on the race for this year’s world crown looking refreshed and confident after a holiday in Bali.

“I haven’t surfed that much in the past couple of weeks,” said a relaxed Slater. “Sometimes I do that between events – just have a break. I was going to go to Fiji but I was worried that if I went there I might get too many good waves and not be motivated to surf here!” he laughed.

Talking about the conditions, which vary radically from those of the last event in Jeffreys Bay (where he took a win in two to 2.5 metre [six to eight foot] swells), Slater revealed he has the perfect war plan in place.

“Here you have to generate speed,” Slater continued. “At J-Bay everyone is going to get waves that they can surf really well on. Here it’s usually the smaller guys who can generate the speed and stay in the pocket. You have to have different boards and have a different approach. You have to turn differently and you really have to pay attention to what the wave is going to let you do.”

In heat 10, Australian Tom Whitaker also indicated his eagerness to make a return to the “business end” of proceedings when he powered past Joel Parkinson (AUS), currently ranked five in the world title race, and local Masatoshi Ohno, despite Whitaker’s late arrival for the heat after being given misleading information.

Paddling out six minutes into the heat, Whitaker took advantage of the fact that his foes had yet to lock in some decent scores and he managed to scoop some rippable waves that enabled him to win and progress directly into round three. (Winners of round one move to round three while second and third place go to round two.)

“I was lucky because I had a good early surf out here this morning so I knew what I was doing,” said Whitaker. “I was six minutes late for the heat due to some miscommunication and was a bit rattled but luckily no-one else had caught a wave by the time I paddled out. I scored a good one and was in a good rhythm from there.”

Appearing pleased with himself, winning the heat was a breakthrough for Whitaker who so far this year has failed to win in the round one three-man heats and has consistently had to face sudden death in round two, where if he loses he faces minimum tour points from an equal 33rd place.

“That was the first round one heat I’ve won all year so it’s good not to be in that 33rd round, plus it gives me a bit more time to psych up for that next man-on-man heat,” Whitaker continued.

Highest individual wave score of round one, a 9.6, went to flashy Brazilian Paulo Moura who blasted apart one of the bigger waves of the day and then kept up the momentum to win the heat in front of Tim Reyes (USA) and Danny Wills (AUS).

Moura was revelling in the conditions, which reminded him of home, and was very solid in what was easily the best heat of the day.

“I’m pretty happy with that wave and was lucky I chose a good one,” stated Moura. “It looked good and it was my first wave of the heat so I was stoked with the score. I’m feeling confident after getting a third in the WQS in France and maybe it helps that I surf similar waves to this back home in Brazil. I had a slow start to the year but now I feel relaxed and I’m sure good things will come from now on.”

Due to missing a connecting flight enroute to Japan, reigning world champ Andy Irons had his heat postponed till the end of the day and was obviously slightly ruffled by the inconvenience. He narrowly won in a countback decision over local hot shot Hideyoshi Tanaka. Irons will be looking for a victory here in Japan to reel in the ratings lead of Slater to try to put himself in a position to stake claim for a fourth world crown.

Weather forecasts indicate that tropical storm Nabi has been upgraded to typhoon status overnight which augers well for a finish in quality, sizable waves.

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