LONG BEACH, Long Island, NY (Sept. 9, 2011) - After four consecutive days of world class competition that drew 100,000 new fans to the beach, and a day of surfing that will go down in history, it can safely be said that everything went right at the inaugural $1million Quiksilver Pro New York Supported by vitaminwater. Owen Wright, the 21-year-old rookie from DownUnder took out 10-time world surfing champion Kelly Slater (USA) to write the sport's greatest underdog tale: A kid from the Aussie sticks making it big in New York to take home a record $300,000 and move to No.2 in the world
The Quiksilver Pro New York Final marked a rematch between the pair from the previous stop on the ASP World Title Series in Tahiti. But today belonged to Wright and the monumental nature of the moment was not lost on the New York crowd who passionately rooted on a kid they'd never heard of before this week.
Wright wasted no time in the Final, belting a 7.00, a 9.23, and an 8.00 in the opening minutes of the heat against Slater with a savage forehand attack on the clean left-hand walls. Slater never made it off the ropes, unable to tap back into the brilliance that blinded opponents Josh Kerr (Australia) and Taj Burrow (Australia) in his quarter- and semi-final heats - heats that were worthy of being finals in themselves.
As the clock counted down, Slater made one last push, throwing everything he had into a last ditch effort that ended in a broken board.
"Firstly all my friends and family came to mind," said Wright. "I'm just as stoked as they are. It just overwhelmed me thinking of them.
"The conditions were perfect for me. I knew I'd do everything I could to get to the final with Kelly and I knew he'd be there anyway. Once I got the final I went, no, this is payback for last week! But I've watched Kelly my whole life. He's been a huge inspiration to me.
"I walked for six hours one day in the city just looking around. I've seen nothing like it before. I went to the top of the Empire State building and looked down and I was thinking Central Park was just some small park, but it's like central forest! It's the biggest thing I've ever seen. But that's just New York. Everything's huge. Huge prize money, hell trophy and perfect surf."
Prior to the final, Slater was in deadly form. His ultimate loss was taken graciously and he seemed to revel in the opportunity to share the moment with Wright. It was 20 years ago that Slater stood in the place that Owen stands today. Wright was 1-year-old that year.
"Owen's first win - this is going to be a memory for his whole life and I'm stoked to be in that final with him. I'm a hundred per cent confident that he's going to at least one world title. He's basically still a rookie and in my opinion he's probably the most well-rounded guy on tour.
"I felt off from wave one. I took off on the first wave and just misread it."
On his heat with Taj: "It's funny, because I get nervous until somebody gets a good ride and then I know what I need to do. I almost enjoy it more when somebody gets a big score because it brings you to a level. It opens the flood-gates for you."
In his semi-final heat against Burrow, Slater was in need of a near-perfect ride in the dying minutes. Of course, he rose to the occasion like no-one else could, launching the event's only perfect 10-point ride with a gigantic frontside full-rotation slob grab on a closeout section. It was a hard defeat for Burrow, who had the crowd in his corner with a ballistic display of both tail-busting power turns and sky-scraper aerials.
"Even with my 9 and a 7.8, I still didn't feel safe because Kelly's capable of (a perfect 10) and he did it," said Burrow. "He tried lots of wild airs and the wind wasn't cooperating with him... and I was like, I hope he doesn't stick one of these things. But sure enough, he gets a big wedge and I let him have it. It looked too big and dumpy. But he did the best air of his life! I don't know how he does it. It won't even do it justice explaining how freakish that actually is, what he just did. That's the best air he's ever done in his life and he did it when he needed, with a minute to go, and it had to be against me. It hurts. It's awful."
Josh Kerr leaves New York as another sentimental favorite. He came here with no expectations, hot off a performance in Tahiti that marked his true arrival to the top ranks. Third place today solidifies him in the top 10 - now 6th in the world.
"It's a little frustrating...but maybe it was fate, because what happened with him and Taj was meant to be," said Kerr. "That's good for our sport what just went down. I was stoked to see it. Still bummed on losing, but bitter sweet.
"Being in the big city and getting a big result, and getting good waves... there's a lot of people watching this. Having heats verse Kelly is obviously a good thing because people will wake up in the middle of the night to watch those."
Alejo Muniz (BRA), 22, currently competing in his rookie year on the ASP World Title Series, was in impressive form throughout the entirety of Quiksilver Pro New York competition, but was unable to trump Wright in their Semifinals heat. Muniz's equal 3rd place finish marks his career-best result.
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