Byron Bay?s Danny Wills faces Kelly Slater on Gold Coast
By IAN MONAGHAN and AAP
EIGHT-times world champion Kelly Slater yesterday nominated the Gold Coast's Joel Parkinson as the man who could deny him an unprecedented ninth world title this year, but first he has to get past veteran Suffolk Park surfer Danny Wills.
Slater, 35, starts his quest today when the season-opening Quiksilver Pro gets underway at Snapper Rocks on the Gold Coast. Last night's forecast was for a one-metre swell to kick off the $300,000 World Championship Tour (WCT) season, building in the wake of a cyclone in the Coral Sea towards the end of the week.
His three-man round one heat, the eighth on the schedule, includes Wills, who finished equal 17th last year, and wildcard entrant Julian Wilson.
Winners of round one heats progress to round three, while losers have to fight out the sudden-death round two man-on-man format.
Yesterday, Slater nominated Parkinson as his No 1 danger.
Parkinson was the surfer who got closest before the American legend claimed his eighth world crown last year, but he faded in the back-end of the season to finish sixth, behind runner up Andy Irons and also fellow Australians Mick Fanning (third) and Taj Burrow (fourth).
After saying he doesn't know how many events he'll contest this year, Slater denied media reports claiming his major sponsor Quiksilver was set to pay him $US10 million ($A12.66 million) if he won 10 world titles. n Coolangatta's Dale Richards yesterday won the Quiksilver Pro Trials, taking a wildcard into the main event and a heat against former world champion Andy Irons.