"It's crazy, I had to try to run around the crowd there and they got kind of mad at me," Slater said. "The waves were fun, we finally got some surf and I had a good heat and people are just going crazy right now."
The 2003 event winner amassed an excellent 18.07 out of 20.00 points for posting 9.40 and 8.67 wave scores in his Heat 9 clash against rookie Kai Otton (AUS) and local legend Fabio Carvalho (BRA).
"I can't surf defensively and get high scores like those," Slater said. "It's the first round so I was able to go out there and surf a little bit loose and it worked really well. I felt like I had a really good heat, probably the best heat I've had since Trestles. Even though I got 3rd in Spain, I didn't have a really good event. I didn't feel like I surfed very well in that contest. Even after all that ground I made up in Trestles, from Jeffrey's Bay until now Mick and I ended up even. You have to capitalize on those opportunities when you have them."
Slater has to make the semifinals at the very least to stay in contention for his 9th world title, the scenario also hinges heavily on World No. 1 Mick Fanning's (AUS) performance.
"Mick surfed pretty well but he didn't surf great," Slater said. "He looked to me like he stumbled a little bit but he's probably just got excitement jitters. He's just trying to get himself on a roll and trying to feel the wave out. There's not much more I can say other thanthat, I can only do what I can do and the chances of somebody stopping Mick on the other side of the draw are pretty slim this year. Hopefully someone can step up to the plate and at least keep him to a 5th so if I can win this thing I'd at least have a shot at it in Pipe. I'm just trying to keep myself in there."
Fanning won his heat convincingly as well, defeating Bruce Irons (HAW) and Guga Arruda (BRA) to advance straight to Round 3.
"We waited and scored the best waves we have had so far, so that was a good thing," Fanning said. "It picked up throughout the day too, it was fun out there. I wanted to get a couple of good waves under my belt and I was just feeling it out on the first couple, luckily I got two and made it through. The Brazilian wildcards are dangerous and you don't want to be in Round 2 with them."
The crowd let Fanning know that they appreciated his surfing by mobbing him on the sand – an overzealous fan nearly made off with his hat after snatching it straight from his head.
"The Brazilian fans are radical," Fanning said. "Just getting up the beach was wild. It's good though, they have their local fans but then they go for everyone else as well so it's a really good vibe."
Current World No. 4 Joel Parkinson (AUS) won his heat with ease and attributed it to being pressure-free now that he's out of the title race.
"I've come here without a goal really," Parkinson said. "I had a look at the ratings and I can't really go up and I can't really go down. I guess I'm just here to surf and surf heats which kind of worked for me. Not having the world title hanging over my head, or any other crap to worry about, just worked out there today."
Jeremy Flores (AUS), the standout rookie of 2007 thus far, easily beat wildcard Fabio Gouveia (BRA) and Ricky Basnett (ZAF) in their Round 1 match-up.
"I felt good," Flores said. "The waves were fun. I think I got really lucky because I caught the right ones and that made the difference. I got some good scores which felt good after seeing the heat before with such low scores. I'm struggling with my boards and choosing the right one lately, but my board felt good too so it's all positive."
Injury replacement surfer Renato Galvao (BRA) was one of two wildcards who won his heat today. He beat the winner of the last event on the Foster's ASP World Tour, Bobby Martinez (USA) as well as Phillip Macdonald (AUS) to join co-wildcard William Cordoso (BRA) in Round 3.
"I've surfed twice before in the World Tour event in Imbituba, but I lost in the first round before," Galvao said. "I'm really happy I made it this year and that I have the opportunity to show my skills here now."
Heat 10 of the Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro will feature title contender Taj Burrow (AUS) taking on Luke Stedman (AUS) and Marco Polo (BRA). A call on competition status will be made tomorrow morning at 7am.
Hang Loose Catarina Pro Round 1 Results:
Heat 1: Dean Morrison (AUS) 14.50, Heitor Alves (BRA) 12.83, Cory Lopez (USA) 8.73
Heat 2: Rodrigo Dornelles (BRA) 14.80, Pancho Sullivan (HAW) 10.23, Jihad Khodr (BRA) 6.23
Heat 3: Taylor Knox (USA) 10.80, Frederick Patacchia (HAW) 10.50, Simao Romao (BRA) 9.65
Heat 4: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 16.16, Fabio Gouveia (BRA) 8.23, Ricky Basnett (ZAF) 5.94
Heat 5: William Cordoso (BRA) 14.17, Bede Durbidge (AUS) 12.86, Greg Emslie (ZAF) 12.43
Heat 6: Renato Galvao (BRA) 15.50, Phillip Macdonald (AUS) 12.93, Bobby Martinez (USA) 12.77
Heat 7: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 15.10, Diego Rosa (BRA) 12.16, Adrian Buchan (AUS) 11.67
Heat 8: Mick Fanning (AUS) 15.67, Guga Arruda (BRA) 12.74 Bruce Irons (HAW) 7.83,
Heat 9: Kelly Slater (USA) 18.07, Kai Otton (AUS) 11.63, Fabio Carvalho (BRA) 11.37
Remaining Hang Loose Catarina Pro Round 1 Match-Ups:
Heat 10: Taj Burrow (AUS), Luke Stedman (AUS), Marco Polo (BRA)
Heat 11: CJ Hobgood (USA), Raioni Monteiro (BRA), Peterson Rosa (BRA)
Heat 12: Tom Whitaker (AUS), Bernardo Miranda (BRA), Gabe Kling (USA)
Heat 13: Michael Campbell (AUS), Leonardo Neves (BRA), Mark Occhilupo (AUS)
Heat 14: Royden Bryson (ZAF), Josh Kerr (AUS), Shaun Cansdell (AUS)
Heat 15: Chris Ward (USA), Troy Brooks (AUS), Dayyan Neve (AUS)
Heat 16: Adriano de Souza (BRA), Neco Padaratz (BRA), Victor Ribas (BRA)