In the first one-on-one round of the tournament Slater, 40, was dumped out at the same stage as last year, with Australian Whitaker exploiting a fall by the American.
"There’s only one strategy to have against Kelly," Whitaker said. "You’ve got to wait for the best waves and surf to your strengths, because he can catch tiny waves and turn them into 9-point-rides.
"When you surf against Kelly there’s almost less pressure, because he’s meant to flog you. You just go out there and surf hard."
Slater was quick to praise Whitaker, acknowledging that falling early in the heat proved costly.
"90 per cent of the time you can expect Tom to be on the best waves of the heat," Slater said. "I had my chances. On my opening ride I fell on my last manoeuvre and if I didn’t I would have gotten a 9.
"I had a feeling that falling off would come into play later in the heat, because I knew Tom was going to get a good set and put himself in a good position."
QF 1: Josh Kerr (AUS) vs. Olamana Eleogram (HAW)
QF 2: Mark Occhilupo (AUS) vs. Tom Whitaker (AUS)
QF 3: Nic Muscroft (AUS) vs. John John Florence (HAW)
QF 4: Kai Otton (AUS) vs. CJ Hobgood (USA)
Round of 12 results
HEAT 1: Josh Kerr (AUS) 17.00 def. Dion Atkinson (AUS) 12.60
HEAT 2: Olamana Eleogram (HAW) 13.16 def. Owen Wright (AUS) 9.23
HEAT 3: Mark Occhilupo (AUS) 13.17 def. Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 13.00
HEAT 4: Tom Whitaker (AUS) 16.10 def. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 15.76
HEAT 5: Nic Muscroft 13.60 def. Adam Melling (AUS) 12.60
HEAT 6: John John Florence (HAW) 19.70 def. Kolohe Andino (USA) 11.17
HEAT 7: Kai Otton (AUS) 15.14 def. Taj Burrow (AUS) 14.77
HEAT 8: CJ Hobgood (USA) 13.84 def. Kieren Perrow (AUS) 8.73
Round of 24 results:
HEAT 1: Josh Kerr (AUS) 18.66 def. Bede Durbidge (AUS) 15.90
HEAT 2: Owen Wright (AUS) 13.13 def. Gabe Kling (USA) 9.47
HEAT 3: Mark Occhilupo (AUS) 16.60 def. Blake Thornton (AUS) 12.50
HEAT 4: Tom Whitaker (AUS) 16.67 def. Kelly Slater (USA) 16.56
HEAT 5: Adam Melling (AUS) 16.20 def. Mick Fanning (AUS) 7.74
HEAT 6: John John Florence (HAW) 16.80 def. Willian Cardoso (BRA) 13.33
HEAT 7: Kai Otton (AUS) 14.13 def. Brian Toth (PRI) 10.63
HEAT 8: CJ Hobgood (USA) 17.60 def. Lincoln Taylor (AUS) 12.84