Kelly Slater is a global icon. His success in his sport is unprecedented — 11 world titles, 54 tour victories, seven wins at Pipe Masters. With all that being said, he’s also 43. He supposed to slow down. He’s supposed to have lost a bit of timing.
No chance. Just watch him lose his board midair, have the presence of mind to grab it again, land on his stomach, hop back up, and give the fans something to talk about online for weeks to come. Was it a score-able maneuver? Not really… but damn was it cool.
When we spoke to World Surf League officials, ex-pros, and current rivals for our long form investigation into Slater’s “Dream Heat” against John John Florence in Teahupo’o, not a single person would go on record to say that Kelly’s competition days were numbered. They all refused to put another world title past the champ.
That’s similar to the statement the WSL’s director of communications Dave Prodan gave Uproxx to refer to Slater’s insane (and difficult to score) air at the Hurley Pro in Southern California yesterday:
For all the talk about Generation Next, or him being long in the tooth or disinterested, it’s moments like today and his 540 in Portugal that illustrate that when Kelly Slater wants another title he still very much has the tools to achieve it.
Last week, as he prepped for the competition at Lower Trestles (which he was bumped from in this same heat, yesterday), Slater explained to Uproxx how in the days leading up to contests he is very technical and analytical, but when the horn sounds he “lets all that go and goes off of feel.”
This wave — though not the best of the surfer’s storied career — certainly has that loose, improvisational vibe and seems more like something a young gun would do.
“To be able to do that at 43,” Prodan notes, “that’s completely unprecedented in any sport.”