MATT BANTING VS KELLY SLATER - QUIKSILVER PRO
Surfer, Matt Banting, Kelly Slater, surfing, Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast 2011, Wildcard, ASP, World Tour, Surf
AUSSIE TEEN TO FACE IDOL SLATER
A seemingly innocuous phone call was enough to leave 16-year-old Port Macquarie surfer, Matt Banting, teary-eyed and trembling. His sponsor had just relayed the news he'd been granted a Wildcard to compete in next week’s Quiksilver Pro on the Gold Coast, where in Round 1, he'll face 10-time World Champion and his idol, Kelly Slater.
"It’s everything I’ve ever dreamed,” said Banting, who will be the youngest competitor in the event’s history. “To surf in a heat out there with Kelly Slater, the King, I’ve watched him my whole life, it’s incredible”
Their head-to-head clash is an underdog scenario of epic proportions.
Slater, 39, has been virtually untouchable in his illustrious 20-year career. The American is indisputably the greatest surfer to ever wax up a board, and he enters the Quiksilver Pro on a mission to begin defence of his 10th World Title – an achievement virtually unparalleled across any sport.
Banting, 16, has never competed in a heat against top-seed World Tour surfers. This is his first appearance in an ASP World Tour event.
It’s not all doom and gloom for the youngster. Banting was selected for the coveted Quiksilver Pro Wildcard spot for a reason. He’s the 2010 Quiksilver King of the Groms Champion, a five-time Rusty Gromfest winner, and the 2010 Under-16 ISA World Champion. Slater is not guaranteed a free ride to the winning Round by any means.
Come Saturday’s clash, Banting has a plan to throw caution to the wind, in an attempt to topple his idol.
“I’ll definitely be trying to go big to beat him. If it’s fun and small (surf conditions), I'll need to throw some punts (aerials manoeuvres) or some really solid moves to get above-average scores from the judges.”
The 16-year-old is also realistic about his chances.
“How or who can compare themselves with Slater? He's pretty much perfect. We’ve seen him do the biggest punts, ride the longest and biggest barrels, plus do unbelievable turns in between. He is just an all round amazing surfer.”
While Saturday's showdown is obviously a tall task for Banting, it’s not an impossible one.
Only two years ago at this very same event, a then 20-year-old, Julian Wilson, of Coolum, famously eliminated Slater as an event Wildcard. Slater said afterward that he merely did not catch the right waves.
Banting concedes much of the outcome is out of his hands.
"If I'm going to have any shot at beating him, I’ll need every little advantage and a lot of luck to go my way."
It’s not just the daunting task of overcoming the world’s best surfer that Banting has to deal with. Thousands of spectators are expected to converge on Coolangatta's Snapper Rocks for the Round 1 clash.
“I’m a little bit of nervous about surfing in front of that many people,” admitted Banting, but I’m just going to try be on my game, surf my best, and show the crowd what I do."
In many ways the crowd is key for the young Australian. As popular as Kelly Slater is, Banting will be surfing off home soil, and therefore should enjoy a vast Aussie contingent cheering him on. And let's not even get started on our love for the underdog.
- Michael Bellamy
- Round 1 of the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast will
commence Saturday, 25th of February at Coolangatta’s Snapper Rocks (Conditions permitting)
- Tune in to mesurf.com for daily news and highlights as the world’s best surfers battle it out in the first event of the 2011 ASP World Tour season
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