Twenty years is a long, long time to wait for a win in France. Three hours is long time to wait for shop to open again after lunch. Three weeks is a long time to wait for a contractor to come and fix a leaky tap. But twenty years is longer, and twenty years is sufficient passage of history for a man to say, win eleven ASP World Titles, lose many of his friends and all of his hair.

Kelly Slater did away with Dane Reynolds in the dream final for Quiksilver top brass. Dane rode a board he’d ‘hand shaped himself’ but never really got going through the gears. He even looked fly-away-y on those end sections punts, something he’s not often accused of. Kelly surfed ‘smart’. That is, he scored more points than the other man.

Kelly has often been called superhuman, or of another order of being, not quite like the rest of us. Maybe it’s the eyes. But Dane has come along with a more everyman vibe, and that works too. The scruffy, unkempt chin, the slouchy walk, the chubby ass. Everybody sees a bit of themselves in Dane, every surfer takes pride explaining to an unjazzed relative how Dane is not the world champion ‘but I think he is the best’. But the thing is, there are no exceptions, no super humans, just different haircuts and bodyshapes. As Marcel Proust, one of France’s greatest thinkers would surely concur. “We are compelled to recognise that we live not alone but chained to a creature of a different kingdom, whole worlds apart, who has no knowledge of us and by whom it is impossible to make ourselves understood: our body. It is everyday, several times a day, when we comb our hair, when we dry our backs, when we wipe our bottoms. Those are the facts of life."

Today, Graviere had cleaned up dramatically into gorgeous, tapering blue walls. A light offshore puffed and sighed, vaguely pine fragranced, and the morning autumn sun cast long, cool shadows. Kelly made a few mistakes, tried to style overly on a left that he surely would have made if he’d pig dogged, but he was granted latitude by the man the commentors kept referring to as an artist. ‘C’est un artiste’ they would exclaim repeatedly. To be honest, we’ve all seen his childlike doodles, and he isn’t much of one. But he does surf well.

“It’s been a long wait for me to win this contest. I did my first event here in 1990 and won in 92, and it’s been a few ups and downs trying to win this particular event in recent years," recounted a stoked if not overcome with elation Slater. “Andy was so dominant here for so many years, and Mick’s won a couple, it’s been hard to get a look in. So it feels greats to deliver finally out there. The waves were really fun, we both had a few chances in the final but I guess the one better wave to hit the bank came to me at the crucial time."

“It takes a while to figure out what you’re feeling after something like this," offered Dane with frank, earnest air of reflection. “I’m a bit disappointed I didn’t surf better, just coz I got nice waves but surfed them a little safely. But it’s nice to compete again, and in sick waves. I normally don’t enjoy surfing barrels just because usually they’re really crowded, but surfing barrels with one of guy is pretty cool, who wouldn’t enjoy that?"

Earlier in the morning, ohn John had been denied the score against Dane in a busy heat, some would say rather unfairly, me being one of them. But second guessing the judging is so 2009… so let’s just say his luck run out. The second semi was a forgettable, peeling wave starved affair, with Kelly willing his way past Parko, who sat apart from the World Champ for most of the heat on an even quicker closeout. I’d like to see them sit on each other and go wave for wave myself, but when Joel finally did paddle across, it was too little, too late.

But what so for the title race? “Of course the same guys are still in there." Responsed Kelly, somewhat abruptly. “Mick can afford to throw this one away, Joel did well here. Nothing’s changed in that regard. It’s a little early for title race talk but it’s inevitable I guess. There’s several great surfers in the running, and that’s exciting, it’s going to be a lot of fun."

Don't take my word for it. heat review here