Surfing phenomenon Kelly Slater

Gary Kewley
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Friday - December 19, 2008
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Kelly Slater, the six-time Pipeline Master

Happy hollow days, surfers! What a season so far! Sure, we’re in lull surf, weather- and tradewind-wise, but things will average out in our favor - guaranteed. We had “all-time” consistency, size and quality for the Reef Hawaiian Pro, the O’Neill World Cup and the Billabong Pipeline Masters. It will go down as one of the greatest years ever for the series’ 26-year history.

The new Vans Triple Crown winner is Australian Joel “Parko” Parkinson. Many (including pros) consider him to be the best surfer in the world because of his milky smooth, lightening-quick, radical style. Many thought he’d be world champ a few times by now, as he’s been runner-up twice and fourth twice. Joel’s always up there; in fact, some think the reason he hasn’t been at the very top is because of his ultra-casual approach. Judges seem to like more visceral competitors who wear their feelings on their jerseys. This guy’s so good, makes it look so easy that it’s deceptive - even to judges!

Well, everyone was claiming that Parko’s performance this year made him the favored, most-deserving champ. I agree. Parko proves it - never give up! He also proved that practice makes perfect with two perfect 10s in one heat at the Pipe (a first-ever in Hawaii).

Good on ya, mate!

I also have to congratulate our young talent from Maui, Dusty Payne, for coming in second in the overall TC ratings. He was leading it all the way into the Pipe Masters before bowing out. I have to say, watching Dusty’s surfing this year in these huge waves and knowing how good he is in the smaller surf, we have a potential world champ hailing again from a Neighbor Island. (Andy Irons was the other). Mark my words: If Dusty wants it, he can have it.

Current world champ (for the ninth time!) Kelly Slater stepped off the plane a few days prior to his heat at the Pipe Masters.He didn’t participate in the other two events. Many were wondering if he’d even show ... but of course, deep inside they knew he’d show - and put on a show - then steal the show. Slater proceeded to win the event by taking out guys like the current Mr. Pipeline, Jaime O’Brien. He was the best, without argument. But it goes beyond his surfing ... it is as though the sea itself favors this man.

I was drop-jawed by what I witnessed. It was mostly all at back-door Pipe (the right off the left). It was the heat of the day; Slater was “comboed” by Californian Timmy Reyes with only six minutes to go in the semis. Timmy had a right-hand barrel worth 9.1 and one other super-high score. This meant that the legend was finished for the day. No one comes back from having to get two high scores in so short a time - unless your name has the initials KS. Timmy let Kelly go on a wave that he shouldn’t have ... as the man posted nine out of 10 (they score your two top waves). All of a sudden you’re going “NO WAY! He’s back in?“Then within 30 seconds, while paddling back outside, an unreal wave comes straight to him - inside of Timmy Reyes! Kelly grabs it and gets stuffed like nobody’s business; he rides the thing perfectly and gets what he deserved - a perfect 10 - all within 90 seconds. I’ll never forget it. He didn’t even have “priority” (first choice of wave), Timmy did. Slater won, commenting, “That was a minute-and-a-half heat.”

“It’s inexplicable,” Slater said of his win and banner season (he won six out of 11 events - another world record). “I’m just stoked. I wasn’t even worried about surfing the event (at Pipe), so to surf it and win and get that board (a Gerry Lopez-designed surfboard trophy), I’ll cherish that for sure.

“It’s like an energy flow,” he added. “I don’t’ know how to explain it any better than that. It seems a little esoteric and ethereal sounding, but it is that way.”

I’d say he’s earned the right to explain his phenomenon however he wants.

Maybe he can create waves for the women’s Billabong Pro. They’ve been waiting for more than five days to finish. There are three women in the running still. I’ll post results at

See you in the lineup and back here next week!

GQ, dropping in 4 U!

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