SA's Holmes eliminates Slater
Holmes in action at J-Bay (AP)
Jeffrey's Bay - South African wildcard Sean Holmes, added another scalp to his storied list of giant-killing acts at the Billabong Pro J-Bay when he eliminated current world number one and nine times ASP World Champion Kelly Slater of the United States.
Holmes, competing with a back injury incurred on the first day of the event that has required extensive physiotherapy and pain-killing injections, waited patiently for the best waves during the 30-minute third round clash before scoring the narrowest of victories - four-hundredths of a point 13.10 v 13.06 - out of a possible 20.
"I'm definitely feeling a lot of pain in my lower back and am very stiff, so I entered the heat knowing I was going to have to surf smart," explained Holmes.
"I focused on getting the biggest waves I could and applying as much power as I could.
"Kelly (Slater) and I have surfed once before out here when it was a bit smaller and he got me by taking off on a lot of insiders. There wasn't as much opportunity out there today so being selective played a big role."
Both surfers rode waves in the final minute and Slater, needing just 5.51 to snatch victory, produced a potentially heat-winning ride of 7.23.
The judges kept the packed beach on tenterhooks for two minutes after the heat-ending siren had sounded before awarding Holmes 5.77 points and a berth in Round 4 to a roar of patriotic elation.
In his next clash Holmes takes on former 3 x ASP World Champion Andy Irons in a continuation of their long-standing rivalry in which the South African holds the upper-hand with two victories to the Hawaiian's one.
"Andy (Irons) and I are great friends now so any rivalry that we may have had I don't think exists anymore," Holmes commented on his next encounter.
"He's a fantastic surfer and I don't think he even thinks about who he has in a heat. He just goes out there and does his thing. It will be a fun heat."