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ORANGE COUNTY ON THE GO | SURFING

Dorian Wins This Popularity Contest

September 28, 2000|JOHN WEYLER

The two most popular surfers in the world, six-time world-champion Kelly Slater and Hawaii's Shane Dorian, spent Tuesday night praising each other, then got up early Wednesday and displayed their respect by trying their best to show the other an early exit from the Billabong Pro at Lower Trestles.

Slater, who picked up his eighth consecutive Surfer Magazine Poll award Tuesday night at the Sun Theater in Anaheim, has been semi-retired from pro surfing for two years, but that hasn't ebbed the adulation of magazine voters, who selected Dorian second.

After a 1 1/2-hour delay because of high tide--and no breakers--the two close friends put the mutual-admiration society on hold long enough to wage a wicked second-round battle. Slater, a wild-card entry who was seeded 46th out of 48 competitors, jumped out to a quick lead with two rides that were scored in the 7s. He finished with a 22.40, the second-highest heat score of the contest to that point, but Dorian rebounded from a terrible start to post a 22.60 for a dramatic victory.

Dorian will face No. 36 Ben Bourgeois from Wilmington, N.C., today.

"Kelly got a couple of good ones to start and I was pretty discouraged," said Dorian, who lost to Slater in the finals of the Gotcha Pro in Tahiti the last time they met. "I know Kelly was excited about winning this event, but he's going to have to wait."

The heat was a weird combination of long lulls, while the pair sat on what appeared to be Lake Pacific, and intense competition, when a few shoulder-high sets magically appeared.

With less than 10 minutes remaining in the 30-minute heat, Dorian grabbed a small left that Slater let go and managed a 6.75 with a couple of smacks off the lip that gave him a narrow lead. Slater, however, still only had two waves and the best three are counted.

Three minutes later, both surfers caught long rights, Dorian hitting big tail-slide cutbacks and Slater floating over long sections and snapping turns. Slater's 7.40 score seemed to seal victory, but Dorian's 7.50 kept him in contention.

Then Dorian paddled onto the biggest and best-shaped wave of the contest. He powered through a series of turns and cutbacks and was rewarded with an 8.35 that gave him the narrow lead with less than four minutes left.

Another lull ended Slater's chances. He needed another score in the high sevens and no waves capable of producing that kind of a score materialized.

"It was a pretty good grudge match, huh?" asked Slater, smiling. "Shane was definitely out of sync to start, but when he got that one I let go, the momentum really shifted."

And so did the balance of power for the rest of the contest.

THANKS A LOT, SHANE

For those at the top of the Assn. of Surfing Professionals' world rankings who were waiting to exhale, there had to sighs of relief when Dorian won.

As it turns out, it wasn't No. 1 Sunny Garcia who dodged a third-round matchup with super-spoiler Slater thanks to Dorian's remarkable rally.

It was No. 2-ranked Australian Luke Egan.

Wild cards Donovan Frankenreiter of Laguna Beach, and Benji Weatherly of San Diego lost Wednesday. Australian wild-card Joel Parkinson returned home due to the death of his girlfriend's mother.

Had he won, Slater would have been the lowest-seeded surfer remaining and normally would have been the third-round opponent of Garcia, who's seeking his first world championship after 15 years on the ASP tour.

But the highest-seeded surfer got the walk-through caused by Parkinson's withdrawal, so it would have been Egan, who trails Garcia by 730 points, battling Slater.

Garcia advances to the fourth round without getting wet again and Egan will face the last surfer on the ASP list, No. 45 Conan Hayes of Hawaii today.

FORMALITY IS RELATIVE

Surfers who won their first-round three-man heats advanced to today's third round.

So what's the biggest advantage of having Wednesday off?

Increased party time, dude, what else?

"The best part is that it means a few more hours at the [Surfer Magazine awards] party," said San Clemente's 11th-ranked Shea Lopez, who should be well rested today when he meets Florida's Damien Hobgood.

The party invitations said "formal attire requested," but Lopez laughed at the notion after winning Tuesday. "This is a bunch of surfers, man, are you kidding me?" he said. "I'm wearing these [tennis] shoes, these [cargo] pants and a clean T-shirt. Wait, I take it back. I am going formal. I'm wearing a long-sleeve T-shirt."

Lopez's brother, Cory and the Hawaiian brothers, Andy and Bruce Irons, went for the casual look. They wore short-sleeve T-shirts.

Cardiff's Rob Machado went all out, however, with a yellow-and-white checkered suit that someone suggested had been stolen from the wardrobe of Mr. Roper from Three's Company.

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