Mick Fanning is known on the Assn. of Surfing Professionals' World Tour as "White Lightning," and his performance Saturday at Lower Trestles was at times electrifying.
Surf at the fabled San Clemente venue was small and inconsistent, but the Australian used a blend of power and fluidity to charge through all four of his heats and win the prestigious Hurley Pro.
The former world champion defeated Ventura's Dane Reynolds in the final to claim his first victory in California and collect a check for $105,000, the largest winner's prize ever offered for an ASP event.
"My wife is flying to London tonight, and soon she's going to find out that we're $100,000 richer," said Fanning, 28, during a news conference.
The triumph vaulted Fanning from No. 7 to No. 2 on the World Tour rankings.
Moreover, his semifinal victory against Kelly Slater probably put an end to Slater's hope of winning a 10th world title this year.
It also forced Slater out of the two-man final of the Trestles contest for the first time since 2004. The Floridian had won three of those five finals.
Slater, 37, improved from No. 8 to No. 6, but with only four contests remaining he has only a slim chance of catching ratings leader Joel Parkinson and Fanning.
"My board speared me in the arm and I snapped the nose off," Slater said of an early-heat wipeout in the semifinal, which damaged his surfboard. "It kind of messed me up and I was, like, 'OK, things aren't starting out very well.' "
The marathon day began at 8 a.m. in two- to three-foot surf so weak and inconsistent during the high tide that there were restarts to a few of the early heats.
But Fanning, who won the world title in 2007, seemed to harness what little energy Mother Nature provided and as the waves got better in the afternoon, so did his surfing.
Fanning opened his semifinal by ripping a long right-hander and earned a score of 8.33 out of a possible 10. Slater kept trying power moves, but the waves wouldn't tolerate them, and Fanning, who later scored a 7.93, easily prevailed in a format that uses a surfer's best two scores.
Against Reynolds, a World Tour sophomore in his first-ever final, Fanning was more dominant. He opened with a 7.83 and added a 6.17 before Reynolds even caught a wave.
Reynolds, 24, an explosive surfer known for his aerials, was unable to capture the magic he found in earlier heats and lost, 17.40 to 13.10.
Still, a surfer who has seemed impassive at times jumped from No. 20 to No. 11 and is poised to requalify for the 2010 World Tour.
"I'm not sure how I feel, but I enjoy the competition and had a good time; this was a fun day," he said afterward.