MUNDAKA, Basque Country, Northern Spain (Friday, October 13, 2006) – After an incredibly strong performance in one metre (three foot) waves at the famed break of Mundaka, Bobby Martinez (USA) has won the Billabong Pro ahead of newly crowned eight-time world champion Kelly Slater (USA).
Despite conditions not being brilliant, the entertainment and drama during the day was at a paramount as alongside Martinez's stellar win, the contenders for the Foster's ASP Men's World Tour title were eliminated one by one in order for Slater to claim the crown.
Martinez however was in no way intimidated by Slater's dominance of this year's tour and powered home with a feverish small-wave attack to claim his second tour event of the year.
Getting down to work from the outset of the final, Martinez set about racking up his wave count.
His best wave came when he pumped out no less than 12 to 15 forehand snaps over a 100 metre distance which earned him a score of 8.83 out of 10 – his total score was 16.40 out of 20 to Slater's 14.27.
"I don't know what to say, it's been an amazing year for me," said a beaming Martinez. "This year I came in just happy to be here after struggling on the World Qualifying Series for so long. I just wanted to give it my all at every contest and just try and requalify and to win two events… it's just crazy for me. I never got ahead of myself thinking I'm going to win this event. I just can't believe it!"
Adding to the prize was the fact that he had beaten Slater, who has been a hero for Martinez since he was a youngster.
"It's great, he's my favourite, he's my hero and I've looked up to him from the moment I saw him surf," said Martinez. "To be out there in the water right after he won his 8th world title was cool. We were talking and having a good time. He's the best surfer to ever step foot into the sport and it was a laugh. We were just having fun with it. We were talking and goofing around. It was cool. It didn't feel real."
Martinez defeated a stellar field on his run to the podium, defeating Dean Morrison (AUS) in the semifinal, and Andy Irons (HAW) in the quarters.
"I got lucky this event," said the unassuming Californian. "I'm just thrilled to be on this tour. I'm so glad to be here traveling and doing what I'm doing. It's what I've dreamed of and it's amazing for me.
Martinez has now put himself in the box seat to take out the 2006 Foster's ASP Men's World Tour rookie of the year.
"I don't know, I'm not thinking about that!" said Martinez. "I'm just living the moment right now. It's just crazy and I'm trying to enjoy right here right now, cause it doesn't happen for me much. So I'm just enjoying it all."
And could the rookie go on to win a world title of his own?
"Nah I'm not going to say that at all, next year I just hope I qualify!" said Martinez. "There's no telling what could happen next year. I hope I can just qualify and be here again. This is everything I've dreamed of."
For Slater his second place was obviously well overshadowed by his semi final result where he claimed a win over Joel Parkinson (AUS) and in turn created history by claiming an unprecedented eighth world crown.
In the semi, Slater pulled out all the stops on the smallish waves and perhaps went into the final too relaxed, as during the 35-minute final decider he was no match for Martinez's energy.
He was full of praise for his finals rival Martinez with whom he has been a friend for many moons.
"I was stoked that Bobby started out so strong this year. He got to third and he was right up there in the ratings, then he had a little rough patch there at the last few events," said Slater. "I was just so happy to see him win at Teahupoo, it was his dad's birthday that day. To win here again, it just all fits, I got the title by making the final and Bobby (Martinez) wins it. I'm stoked for him."
(NB: Another release will be circulated later containing all of Kelly Slater's quotes on his world crown.)
Finishing in equal third, Parkinson, the form surfer of the European tour leg to date, was obviously dismayed at the result given that in the loss to Slater he had surrendered his outside chance for claiming his first ever world title.
"It was hard… Three events ago I wasn't even in contention and then I was in that position," said Parkinson. "So I thought I should be able to hold my head high, whether I win or lose.
"I had the mindset of winning so I was really angry when I lost. A lot of people said to me after it, 'hold your head high', but for 10 minutes there I was just shattered. I thought the rest of the 45 are going to be say 'why didn't you give it to him' and blame me for letting him win, but it isn't all me, there are a lot of people who could have beat him during the year. But congratulations to him."
Also finishing in equal third was Parkinson's good friend Dean Morrison (AUS) who earlier in the day defeated Burrow in the quarterfinals thus ending his title aspirations.
"Bobby's grabbed a 9.40 early and that made it really hard for me to get in front," said Morrison about his matchup. "There's not too many opportunities out there and you really have to fight for them. We were scuttling around at the start of the heat and he got lucky and got that one. That was the deciding factor in the heat. That's the way it is with the conditions like that. There's five or 10 minutes in the heat that change the outcome."
Morrison has now booked a spot in the top 10 and with two events remaining he indicated he is eager to move further up the charts.
"It's been a great year learning wise and I'm getting the ball rolling," said Morrison. "We've got 10 days off and we go to Brazil and then on to Hawaii. I'm really looking forward to a big finish this year."
As mentioned by Morrison the tour will now move around the globe to Imbituba, Brazil for the Nova Schin Festival presented by Billabong.
The event kicks off on October 30 with a waiting period extending until November 8.
Remaining quarterfinal: (1st to semifinal 2nd to equal 5th and 732 ratings points)
Quarterfinal 4: Taj Burrow (AUS) 13.50 vs Dean Morrison (AUS) 12.00
Semifinals: (1st to final 2nd receives equal 3rd and 876 ratings points)
Semifinal 1: Kelly Slater (USA) 16.50 def Joel Parkinson (AUS) 14.14
Semifinal 2: Bobby Martinez (USA) 15.57 def Dean Morrison (AUS) 11.60
Final: (1st receives 1200 ratings points 2nd receives 1032 ratings points)
Final: Bobby Martinez 16.40 def Kelly Slater (USA) 14.27
Current Foster's ASP Men's World Tour top 10 ratings after event #9 The Billabong Pro Mundaka
1. Kelly Slater (USA) 7824
2. Andy Irons (HAW) 6348
3. Taj Burrow (AUS) 6290
4. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 6050
5. Mick Fanning (AUS) 5848
6. Bobby Martinez (USA) 5843
7. Damien Hobgood (USA) 5152
8. Tom Whitaker (AUS) 4948
9. Taylor Knox (USA) 4880
10. Dean Morrison (AUS) 4856