Kelly Slater clinched his 10th World Title Saturday, November 6th at perfect head high “Middles” in Puerto Rico. In any sport from Michael Schumacher in Formula One to Lance Armstrong in cycling, there has never been a more dominant figure. At 38 years old, Kelly Slater has made high performance surfing what it is today, and clinching his 10th World Title is the icing on the cake to his career.
Coming into the Rip Curl Search Puerto Rico, Kelly had to place 5th or higher to seal up his World Title. He came out surfing strong in great conditions and destroyed the competition to not only win his title, but also win the contest. Along the way, he showed the competitive knowledge that make you a champion 10 times over. In the game of competitive surfing you are judged based on the turns, barrels, and airs you get in a 30-minute heat against up to 3 other surfers. You only get the waves that the ocean sends to you, and Kelly repeatedly pushed his heats to be the victor.
One memorable heat was against the wild card entry local Puerto Rican and Stretch Surfboards teamrider Dylan Graves. The beach and the scaffolding were packed with thousands of people chanting, "Dylan! Dylan! Dylan!" Kelly went so far as to say that it was the most intimidating crowd he has ever surfed against. Kelly snuck a win by a margin of only 1 point through linking 3 or more turns per wave while Dylan went for broke with some impressive airs and a small barrel. Shortly after the drama of this heat passed, the Puerto Rican love turned back on to Kelly and everyone was cheering him on to his 10th.
The road to World Title #10 has been a tumultuous one. With the spot light on Kelly, the last thing that anyone expected was the mysterious death of his long time rival Andy Irons. The shock of this tragedy placed a dark cloud of questions and sorrow over this soon to be historic event. With most of the competitors staying in our neighborhood, you could see and feel this group mourning for their long time friend.
In an emotional outburst during the interview after his title winning heat with Adriano De Souza, Kelly stated that he won this title in Andy's honor and that if it were not for Andy Irons that he would not be even be close to getting his 10th World Title. They honored Andy before Kelly's final heat of the day with a minute of silence. In a crowd of thousands of loud people (and believe me Puerto Rico is known for being a loud place), you could have heard a pin drop. As the moment of silence passed and the final heat started, the clouds broke, the sun lit up the aqua marine water and a rainbow shined down on to Middles. Andy was there in spirit. There was no question about it.
With the event wrapping up, with the title and event win in hand, Kelly and the rest of the competitors gathered at Shacks Beach to let loose with some drinks and good times. Kelly spent his evening sipping Pina Coladas with his girlfriend and family, as well as the likes of Quiksilver CEO Bob McKnight, long time waterman and adviser Mark Cunningham, X-Games announcer Sal Masekela, and many more. The party went into the late hours with Tom Curran's band showing up just after midnight to kick it up a notch.
Kelly stayed on PR after the event and scored several of the islands premier breaks including Gas Chambers, a fast, uber hollow, barreling right. Sitting on the beach and watching Kelly surf this wave was simply awe-inspiring, not to mention the emblazed sunset to the west that all was going on as a backdrop to the session…….
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