Mid-way through the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast 2017, a surf website carried a story questioning Kelly Slater’s choice of equipment. one of the more succinct responses came from that prolific, yet apparently shy author, Anon.
‘Who cares?’ Anon pondered.
The answer is of course, Slater.
Kelly Slater cared.
If athlete apathy is the enemy of the sports fan, the surf world has a friend in Kelly Slater 2017. Call it skin in the game, call it giving two hoots.
So when the Internet’s new favourite coach/straight talker Geno Auriemma gave his impressive speech last week, he probably didn’t have Slater circa March 2017 one star displaying the modern malaise of lacking application.
Whether you were glued to the Quik Pro webcast, onsite, or simply indulged in a spot of social media voyeurism, it was hard not to notice some legit care factor from the man surfing his twenty somethingth season opener on the Coast of Gold. The 11 time World Champ is all in. Not the chest thumping all in, maybe. Not the conspicuously human all in a la De Souza 2015, maybe.
But in his own unique Slater-like way. From comment takedowns to those celebrated green lasers, the optical embodiment of passive aggressive.
Green soothes, settles. Lasers cut you half.
For while it’s plausible to amplify apparent interest via a veneer of professionalism, with a couple of well versed platitudes, it’s very hard to hide an emotional investment, especially in our modern glare of webstreams, social media.
Script this? Sure you can. But act it, live in front of the whole world in zillion frames per second Ultra HD? Good luck with that.
And as the season opener unfolded, delicious new fronts were being opened up continually. The more into it he got, the more into it we all got, right?
Because to us, the fans, what could be more spine-chilling than the idea that, mid event, the Champ of Champs is thinking about the 12th at Augusta, or outerknown chino cuts for spring/summer 2019.
We needn’t have fretted.
Tournotes caught a candid locker room exchange between messrs Slater and Fanning. If it wasn’t quite toe curler awkward, it was still a rewind and turn the volumer up-er.
“Say what?” said Kelly in response to Mick’s ‘Should’ve gone the oven mitt’ light goading that Kelly could’ve been deeper. Behind every half joke, after all, lies a half truth.
It was laughed off of course — neither PK or his camera slip past readily go unnoticed — but with smiles more dental than anything else.
At that point only one of the pair, 14 World Titles between them, was still in the event. Slater’s parting remark was to remind the camera whom exactly that was.
Then there was the incident at the very beginning of heat that would be Slater’s final participation in the event. The Slater/Medina Quarter, aka collapse-gate.
Slater pulls in deep behind the section in the opening action of the encounter. Medina has a demi-interested paddle down the line, prematurely foaming an otherwise smooth lip line. Slater fails to emerge from said tube.
Anyone watching a replay could see the incident tested positive for correlation. But causation? A visit to the judges’ chambers from Slater failed to secure a conviction, through lack of evidence. But the case for Slater’s competitive edge was by now overwhelming.
They say news is what people don’t want you to know, and everything else is advertising.
It doubtful Slater would have to many objections to the general public knowing 2017 matters to him.
But in terms of bums on seats, or more likely eyeballs on screens, money couldn’t buy better advertising than surfing’s 11-time World Champion in the role of the poked bear.