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Slater scores big with the last ride

He wins expanded $75,000 first prize at Lower Trestles by edging Burrow.

September 12, 2008|Pete Thomas | Times Staff Writer

Kelly Slater expected someone to step up and give him a run for the money during Thursday's final of the Boost Mobile Pro.

Taj Burrow did just that.

But the Australian was nonetheless left dumbfounded and feeling cheated after Slater, the iconic surfer from Cocoa Beach., Fla., stole the glory -- and a boosted prize purse -- with his late push at Lower Trestles in San Clemente.

Slater, 36, who at one point required a combination of scores to pass Burrow, rallied back and needed a score of 8.93 in the final few minutes.

The swell continued to fade, a long lull ensued, and an Aussie triumph appeared likely.

But as the clock wound down, Burrow, holding priority, let Slater have a smallish, bumpy right-hander, thinking it not worthy of a high-scoring performance.

Slater demolished the wave all the way to the beach, using powerful lip-smashes and tail-slides. He received a 9.27 to push his best-two-waves total to 18.97, out of a possible 20.

Burrow, who was sitting on an 18.63, did not catch another wave.

"I still thought I won," Burrow said afterward. "I don't know what else I could have done. I felt like I picked the best waves and surfed them really good and still got beaten. It's pretty frustrating."

For Slater, it was his second consecutive Boost Mobile Pro triumph, and third overall. Moreover, it was his fifth ASP World Tour victory through seven of 11 events.

Despite Burrow's jump from No. 4 to No. 2 in the world tour standings, top-ranked Slater can wrap up a ninth world title with a win at the next contest in France.

"I was literally out there just trying to save face," said Slater, in reference to his early deficit, which he cut into with a 9.70 at mid-heat. "I was just trying to get out of the combo situation and in some sort of range."

As extraordinary an athlete as Slater is, he's also charmed. Before the final, presenting sponsor Hurley decided to add $45,000 to the winner's purse.

That boosted Slater's earnings to $75,000, while Burrow settled for the ASP's standard runner-up prize: $18,000.

More frustrating for Burrow, as well as a powerful Aussie contingent that fills the four spots behind Slater, were the unusual circumstances that contributed to his defeat.

Most ASP heats are 30 minutes, but because of an inconsistent two- to-four-foot swell, Burrow suggested the judges allow 35 minutes for the final.

Slater then suggested 40 minutes, which was ultimately allowed, though Burrow said he did not consent.

Had it been a 30- or 35-minute heat, Burrow would have become the first Australian to win a World Tour event this year -- and there would still be a legitimate title race.

Burrow didn't want to discuss it.

"Honestly I don't care about the ratings right now because I know Kelly is just so far ahead it's almost impossible to catch him," he said. "I just wanted to win the event and I thought I did, and now I didn't, so I'm frustrated."

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pete.thomas@latimes.com

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