IMBITUBA, Brazil (Friday, October 27, 2006) – After leaving the shores of Europe with Kelly Slater (USA) having claimed his eighth Foster's ASP Men's World Tour crown, the surfing world will now shift its focus across the globe toward the Nova Schin Festival presented by Billabong, which will kick off on Monday, October 30.
In its fourth year, the prestigious Nova Schin Festival – the only top tour event to be held in South America – will move an hour south from its traditional home base of Florianopolis to take advantage of the more consistent break known as Imbituba, which previously had been the event's back-up venue.
And while Slater has the world champion's crown wedged firmly in his travel bag, there is still much anticipation surrounding his claim for the only record he has yet to break – the most number of tour victories currently held by Tom Curren (USA).
At present he is equal with Curren holding onto 33 career wins and with the world title pressure valve now being released it is expected that surfing's greatest ever exponent will lift another gear in the punchy beach breaks and go for broke.
"I'd really love to win the last two contests," said Slater. "I'd really love to win Pipe, so I'm going to really focus on that.
"It's true that people do surf better when there's no pressure," said Slater. "And you do surf your best when you're not thinking about those things, but if you don't have something pushing your surfing then it's hard to go forward. When you have an opportunity in a sport to achieve records then you have to grab onto them when you can. I love the idea of having challenges."
Currently filling ratings spots two through to five going into the remaining two events are three-time Foster's ASP Men's World Tour champion Andy Irons (USA), 2004 Nova Schin Festival champion Taj Burrow (AUS), Joel Parkinson (AUS) and Mick Fanning (AUS), with rookie Bobby Martinez (USA) sitting a mere five points behind 5th place Fanning.
Martinez, who has claimed both the Billabong Pro Tahiti and more recently the Billabong Pro Mundaka, is brimming with confidence and will be out for another solid result so as to round out what has been an incredible year.
The youngster spent much of the early part of 2006 hot on the heels of Slater, but after a string of indifferent results he slipped before raging back into the limelight with his recent win.
"It's been an amazing year for me that's for sure," aid Martinez. "This year I came in just happy to be here after struggling on the World Qualifying Series for so long. And to finally get here in the big league… I just want to give it my all at every contest. But I don't want to get ahead of myself thinking I'm going to win. There are so many good guys on this tour so you can only do your best."
Defending Nova Schin Festival champion Damien Hobgood (USA) sits in 7th place on the rankings with Tom Whitaker (AUS), Taylor Knox (USA) and Dean Morrison (AUS) rounding out the Top 10.
Looking at the lower rankings there are many who are depending on an excellent result in the Brazilian beachbreaks so as to keep their top tour dreams alive – surfers ranked from 28 down face relegation to the ASP's second tier World Qualifying Series in 2007
And going into the remaining two tour events, only one Brazilian – rookie Adriano de Souza – is guaranteed a spot in next year's top 45.
But with conditions favouring the locals, plus with a hugely vocal crowd getting right behind their heroes, it will be expected that the Brazilian contingent will come out firing.
Leading the charge will be tour veteran Victor Ribas (BRA) who is renowned for his late season charges, as indicated last year when he finished runner-up to Hobgood.
"This time of year is when I traditionally do well," said Ribas. "I love California and Europe and now Brazil – I always tend to do okay in those events. Last year I went to Europe and did well and then I went to Brazil and got second. I think this is the time of the year when my body is ready for the good results."
Twenty-fifth ranked Ribas, who has been following competition for well over a decade-and-a-half, indicated that 2006 has been a great year for him as he has regained "grommet-like" enthusiasm for competition.
"I'm so stoked right now," said Ribas. "I'm enjoying the tour. It's like I'm just starting again. I feel like a kid."
Log onto www.aspworldtour.com to watch the Nova Schin Festival presented by Billabong LIVE starting Nov. 30th.
About Foster's Group: Foster's Group is a premium global drinks company delivering a portfolio of beer, wine, spirits, cider and non-alcoholic beverages. The Foster's network spans three regions: 1) Australia, Asia and Pacific; 2) Americas and; 3) Europe, Middle East and Africa. Foster's has been the naming rights title sponsor of the Foster's Asp World Tour since 2004. Foster's Lager is the official beer of the tour and is the world's seventh largest international beer brand – available in 155 countries.
About ASP: The Association of Surfing Professionals has been the governing body of pro surfing since 1976. Under the ASP umbrella sit the sport's elite tours including the premium Foster's ASP World Tour, the ASP Women's World Tour, the second tier ASP World Qualifying Series and ASP Women's Qualifying Series plus the Billabong ASP World Junior Championships and ASP Masters Tours.
Event Fast Facts
Event Name: Nova Schin Festival, presented by Billabong
Status: The Nova Schin Festival, presented by Billabong is number 10 of eleven stops on the 2006 Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP), Foster's ASP Men's World Tour and South America's sole top tour event. The Foster's ASP Men's World Tour crowns the men's professional surfing world champion.
Location: The Nova Schin Festival, presented by Billabong will be staged in Imbituba a punchy beach break offering left and right breaking waves. It is open to swell and regularly serves up quality waves.
Field: The Nova Schin Festival, presented by Billabong will feature the world's top male full-time touring professional surfers and along with event wildcards will comprise a total field of 48.
Duration: A total of four full days of competition is required to finalize the event but the tournament has a waiting period so as to capture the best possible conditions from October 30 through to November 15.
Format: 16 x three man non-elimination round one heats (1st>rnd 3, 2nd & 3rd>rnd 2). Round two onwards feature man-on-man elimination heats.
Ratings points: The winner receives 1200 Foster's ASP Men's World Tour ratings points.
Defending Champion: Damien Hobgood (USA) will be back to defend his crown after having a solid 2006 season. The likeable goofyfooter from Florida has claimed one win this year in Fiji and will be looking to finish with another victory here at Imbituba. He is currently ranked 7 in the world.
Contest Director: Recently retired Flavio Padaratz is the most successful surfer to emerge from Brazil. His list of triumphs since he joined the ASP in 1988 includes three Top 10 finishes on surfing's elite tour and two World Qualifying Series titles (1992 and '99).
Billabong Events: Billabong is a strong supporter of the Fosters ASP Men's World Tour, sponsoring several events on the calendar: the Billabong Pro Tahiti, Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay (South Africa), Billabong Pro Mundaka (Euskadi), Billabong Pro Maui (Hawaii, ASP Women's World Tour final event) and the Billabong World Junior Championships, Men and Women (Australia).