Bugs Salutes a Year of Champions

COOLANGATTA, Australia - Let’s focus on Kelly Slater. He claimed a 9th, he has joined a pantheon of sporting greats that are not only peerless but have transcended their own sport. Kelly did something that set perhaps the greatest of them all, Ali, apart from the rest. Ali distinguished his brand of immortality by claiming and reclaiming the Heavyweight Title three times. This year represents the third time Kelly has ascended his own Mt. Everest. Of course, it took six years to get him off the summit first time around, but it was his second coming that underlined his champion’s pedigree.

Andy Irons owned the world. He really did, and Kelly was on tour and being repelled. Three times he took on the tower of Andy, three times he had boiling oil poured over him. But he pushed on, rose to another level and slayed the dragon. Having toiled so hard and long to get back in the zone, he wasn’t leaving in a hurry, defending his crown in record fashion. That five year rivalry between Kelly and Andy made pro surfing great, established stellar credentials for the ASP Dream Tour and took everyone along for a wonderful ride.

Then Mick Fanning put it all together and absconded with the #1 ranking. Even though Mick set a new benchmark championship pace, Kelly was still in the reckoning, sneaking within a 100 points of the runaway leader after Trestles. The distinguishing feature of Mick’s campaign was the way he extinguished Kelly’s challenge at Hossegor. Had the great one met his Waterloo? No, Kelly returned to his roost by knocking over four of the first five events in ’08 and setting yet another benchmark in both performance and winning ratio. ASP salutes Kelly Slater, we are privileged to have you as our champion.

Meanwhile, seven-time ASP Women’s World Champion Layne Beachley is leaving the building after the most illustrious career in the Women’s discipline. And she did not go quietly, posting easily the most consistently high placings on tour in 2008. If Layne had been blessed with a little luck at the right moments she could have easily converted those 2nd’s, 3rd’s & 5th’s into wins and been right in the hunt for an eighth crown. Layne’s final encounter on tour was against reigning and newly-crowned two-time ASP Women’s World Champion Stephanie Gilmore.

Stephanie Gilmore arrived home at her beloved Snapper Rocks, that she shares with 32,000 other beloveds, and is now celebrating back-to-back ASP Women’s World Titles. What a campaign, it had everything. Steph began with a shocker on her home break, rebounded by maintaining perfection at Bells, got her nose in front, then fell to a 14-year old in the points-rich Beachley Classic. This was the moment of truth, would she fight to successfully defend her crown or succumb to the barbarians at the gate? No offense intended ladies.

Well, that was it, shut the gate, Steph Gilmore raised the bar and left the field in her wake, and is now back home savouring being a multiple ASP Women’s World Champion. Layne has left such an amazing legacy and acknowledges that Stephanie Gilmore has the right stuff to carry it onward and upward. One things for sure, she sure looks like she enjoys winning, that’s a big, happy smile Steph’s got going on. And yes, we salute you too girl, you’re amazing.

Hawaiian legend Bonga Perkins returned to the longboard throne in 2008. Bonga seemed destined to be the perrenial runner-up or Top 3 specialist, but in spectacular fashion, over two Oxbow ASP World Longboard Tour events, the nice guy finished first. It was pretty much a three-horse race, Aussie Harley Ingleby taking out the first tour event in France and was way in the reckoning at San Onofre, the scene of the final shoot-out. Yet it was unheralded Frenchman Antoine Delperro who offered the most resistance, seemingly appearing poised to thwart Perkins again by making both Finals.

So as the two combatants glided out at the fabled San Onofre all the marbles were up for grabs. As if winning at the historic longboard venue was not enough of a motivational factor, for Bonga it was time to exorcise the demons of past ASP World Title shortcomings. Delperro put up a spirited fight but it was to be the time for the king to return, Bonga Perkins clinching his second crown and taking his place amongst the multiple winners. Yeah Bonga, you the man.

This year will be a spectacle, we have a full book of ripping kids. Good luck to all entrants.