Kelly Slater is about to embark on what appears to be his last season on the World Championship Tour. This might be the final chapter in a competitive career that has completely rewritten the record books. We knew this year would eventually come, but we didn’t know if we’d have advance notice about it. If notices via social media are intended to be taken as scripture (which they are), then we do, and here are eleven reasons I’m grateful Kelly Slater is competing in 2017.
1. He’s the best surfer of all time.
Kelly is the king. Nobody can doubt that. He’s won eight more world titles than the next-closest guy. Nobody will ever come close to breaking his record of 11 titles.
2. His first world title came 25 years ago.
Let that sink in for a second. I personally was eight years old. In 1992, Kelly won his first title when he was just 20. To give you some perspective of how long ago that really was, Tom Curren had won the title just two years prior, and it was only 10 years after the last of Mark Richards’ crowns.
3. He finished the 1991 season ranked 43rd.
The year before his dominance would begin, Kelly was just a rookie that didn’t seem to pose any threat to the big boys. Well, that changed pretty quickly.
4. He’s held the record for most CT wins for 10 years now.
That’s right. He broke the record for wins so long ago that there are kids now in middle school that weren’t even alive at the time. He’s racked up 55 wins in his career, a staggering number. For a frame of reference: Joel Parkinson is a former world champ that consistently finished near the top of the rankings for a decade. He has 12 career wins.
Surfing’s Greatest Rivalry: Kelly Slater and Andy Irons. Photos: ASP
5. His rivalry with Andy Irons was the best the sport has ever seen.
AI remains the only guy to really get the best of Kelly during his prime, and their rivalry was truly incredible. Andy was here and gone in a flash, while Kelly has been the epitome of staying power. Ever the contrast between those two.
6. He’ll close it out at Pipeline.
Kelly and Pipeline have had a special relationship over the course of Slater’s career. He’s won the Pipe Masters seven times, including a run of three straight in the mid-’90s. It could be the last event we ever see him enter, so you’d better book your tickets for Oahu now.
7. He’s from Florida.
It’s pretty incredible to me that a guy can spend his childhood surfing two-foot waves and grow up to win the Pipe Masters.
8. He gave an opponent (Rob Machado) a high-five during a heat that could decide a World Title.
If you haven’t heard of it, The High Five came during the 1995 Pipe Masters. It was a truly awesome moment shared by Kelly and friend Rob Machado, who was one of Slater’s biggest challengers at the time. The two had one of the best heats in surfing history and shared a high five during competition after Rob got spit out of a sick barrel. You can’t make this stuff up.
9. He’s taken off switch-foot in a heat. And chugged a beer in a barrel at Chopes.
Kelly and friend Shane Dorian used to do this when they were matched up in a heat. They would take off in the opposite of their natural stance on their first wave. 10. He’s given us so many “Kelly moments.”
For the longest time, Kelly has had a way of pulling off magical comebacks at the end of big heats. He could need a 9.5 with less than a minute on the clock, and the ocean would just seem to send him a wave. Then he’d surf the shit out of it and win. It’s happened so many times that it feels like something more than just luck. Let’s hope we get at least one more Kelly moment this season.
The goatee worked. It really worked. Photo: WSL
11. He did the Stone Cold Steve Austin look for a moment, and he pulled it off gorgeously.Feel free to bring the goat back to the GOAT.
12. This is the bonus round. He shakas hard. And when one shakas, they should do so hard.