It‘s not right that a 41-year-old should still be this nimble, this athletically relevant, this cutting edge in a ‘youth’ sport. Photo: Timo


Thirty-five minutes before clinching
his world title, Kelly Slater quietly ducked out of sight. In the shadow of
the Mundaka church he opened a bottle of water and rinsed out the silver ASP World Title cup. He swirled the water around the oversized goblet, scrubbing the insides with the palm of his hand. Jokingly, he noted to a nearby security guard, “Mick [Fanning] had it last year, you don’t know where it’s been.” After washing the cup, he paddled out to the Basque left-hander, beat Tom Whitaker handily, came back to shore and drank champagne on the shoulders of his friends. Now the proud owner of 11 clean world title trophies, the moment was indicative of just how familiar he’s gotten with the process of winning. “Greatest ever” is so cliché, but really, what else is there to say about Kelly? 20 years of domination have beat generation upon generation into submission. When he came onto the scene at the start of the 1990s Tom Curren, Martin Potter and Tom Carroll were just finishing up their glorious runs, and perhaps he’s guilty of speeding up their decisions to retire. Then came his peers, the Momentum Generation, which he stopped dead in their tracks. Bored with the tour, he walked away for a couple years. Then as the new century dawned, he spawned the greatest rivalry in surf. His title races with Andy Irons are now the stuff of pure legend. Jordy Smith and Dane Reynolds were supposed to be the next big thing, but Kelly wouldn’t allow it. And today? Today he’s schooling youngsters like Gabriel Medina and John John Florence who weren’t even born when he first went on tour.

The greatest ever?
 Yeah, that’s probably pretty accurate.

– JH

It‘s not right, but it’s correct. Bali, June 2013. Photo: Timo


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