Kelly Slater to Take ‘one More Stab at Title’

Former incumbent to knock young cock off perch?

Photo: WSL / Kelly Cestari

Kelly Slater is a beautiful man and a wonderful surfer, but he is also a rascal. It was yesterday announced on the WSL’s website that the 11-times world champion would be taking “one more stab at a title” in 2017. The man is incorrigible.

John John Florence has dominated headlines for well over 48 hours now, and that is quite enough time for any one man to have to himself, newly crowned champion of the WSL or otherwise. Perhaps he should count himself lucky: he’s received far more coverage already than his predecessor, Adriano de Souza, whose parade was shat upon the very day after last year’s world-title showdown with the surprise unveiling of Slater’s new wave pool. But as Kelly climbed up the back of the stage in Peniche on Tuesday and peered over the top of the scaffolding behind Florence and Conner Coffin, one sensed he was again calculating some exquisite bowel movement to unleash from on high.

What has plopped on John John’s head so far has hardly, in fairness, been cataclysmic, but it has had an unmistakable whiff of Slater about it. After clambering about behind the stage like a child who’s no longer the centre of attention, he took to Instagram with a post that was taken by some as a sly dig in the new world champion’s ribs. “Nobody combines all technical and power surfing elements better,” read the caption next to a photo of himself and Jordy Smith, whose elimination in the semi-finals brought the title race to a conclusion. “Best video parts on earth, IMO” — better than John John’s, in other words, View From A Blue Moon, the new Twelve series, and universal “best free-surfer in the world” accolades notwithstanding. This was followed swiftly by a close-up photo looking down into the world-title trophy, where the names of every winner since it was first awarded in 1976 are inscribed. “Zoom in,” he invited, as if to remind us that John John, and everyone else for that matter, still has a long way to go. Kelly Slater – Cocoa Beach, Florida, times eleven.

And then this, in an interview with the WSL, in response to an apparently unrelated question:

“But I think I’m going to take one more stab at a Title next year and really try to put a year together. I’m pretty inspired by what panned out this year in the back half. So I’m going to take these next four months, get my body together, and get my motivation and my boards and everything right and see if I can really put together a focused year.”

One more stab — a typically teasing choice of words. It could be taken to mean one last stab, but it doesn’t necessarily exclude the possibility of multiple further stabs. If it is his last one, you can almost guarantee the retirement will be announced the day after next year’s world champ is crowned.

Perhaps it was nothing more than a casual remark amid numerous other remarks in a wide-ranging interview. And perhaps he just thought the trophy made a pretty photo, and simply wanted to offer Jordy some kind words of encouragement, and was overcome with excitement and pride when he hi-jacked the awards ceremony, camera phone in hand, his inner fanboy rather than his inner rascal getting the better of him.

But that’s the problem with having a colourful track record of engaging opponents in mind-games: your every utterance and action, however innocent, is liable to be interpreted as yet another instance of psychological warfare. Warfare is overdoing it, perhaps. A well-timed dig in the ribs, more like, or a cheeky shit on a new world champion’s shoulders, or one more stab — not exactly malicious, just an automatic response to an urge he can’t resist — in the back.


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