That’s right, Kelly Slater, the 10-time and defending world champion who is looking to go 2-0 on the season and has a long history of success at Bells, winning the event last year and four times overall.
Though he prevailed in a lackluster third-round heat against Stu Kennedy, that was largely because of inconsistent surf.
“I thought that there would be some sets later in the heat, but nothing came,” Slater said. “It was just one of those heats, I’ve had a whole lot like that out here, sometimes there are long lulls. I can’t do much worse than that and make it through a heat. I like to have my bad heats early and get my good ones later.”
Slater, 39, will face Bede Durbidge and C.J. Hobgood in the fourth round. His most serious threats to another Bells victory probably are Aussies Durbidge, Mick Fanning and Owen Right, and South Africa’s Jordy Smith, who finished second to Slater in the world title race last year.
Going into the Rip Curl Pro, Slater made it clear that he’s not yet ready to retire from competitive surfing. “If I wasn’t hungry to win an 11th ASP World Title, then I wouldn’t be here,” he said.
Of the allure of competition at Bells, the Floridian explained, “As a kid in the States I saw a lot of film of this event. I got an idea of what the wave was like and that it was like surfing in an arena. I thought of it like two gladiators battling with fans watching from the cliffs. I remember watching Tom Curren and Occy’s [Mark Occhilupo] heats, and I couldn’t wait to come here.”
— Pete Thomas
Image of Kelly Slater is courtesy of ÃƒÃ'Â© ASP 2011 Kirstin Scholtz