After a remarkable and record-smashing year, Kelly Slater has claimed an unprecedented ninth ASP World Title after his win in round three of the Billabong Pro Mundaka. Below is a recap of Slater's five (and counting) World Championship Tour victories as well as some personal milestones from 2008.
Check out the full news story here: Kelly Makes It 9!
In the beginning of this season no one really knew what Slater was going to do. But he came out swinging at Snapper for the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast and set the bar early for what would become one of the most dominant World Tour seasons in history for the most dominant athlete of all-time in any sport.
Gold Coast Final Heat:
This victory also gave him his 34th career event victory, breaking the tie between himself and Tom Curren for this record. After the win on the Gold Coast, he still wasn't sure if he was going to continue the rest of the season. Check out this article by Brad Melikan that explored this mystery: Will Slater Show?
He decided to show up at Bells for the Rip Curl Pro and proceeded to once again slay the competition, riding a board that was anything but typical. Slater's explaination of the boards went like this: "Move the wide point of your board back and make them three inches shorter and a little wider throughout the whole board."
Slater's Bells Victory Interview:
After ringing the bell for the third time in his career, in late April he launched the Kelly Slater Foundation website and threw a little shindig with Eddie Vedder to help raise money for Surfrider.
Then in May things headed to Tahiti for the Billabong Pro Tahiti where Slater was finally ousted by Manoa Drollet in Round 4. With wildcard Bruno Santos taking the entire event, Slater was still the only World Tour surfer to claim victory to this point. It was too devastating though, as Hinano Beer released their special edition Sl8er can earlier in the month, so he obviously couldn't be too bummed out. Hinano Sl8er Can.
Things then headed to Fiji for the return of the Globe Pro where it was more of the same from Slater. He continued to annihilate any and everything and came away with his third victory of the season in only four events.
In June we put out our annual "Innerviews" issue and Editor-in-Chief Chris Coté talked to Slater on fun, politics, girlfriends, and mechanics:
Transworld SURF: We've all heard the saying, "The best surfer in the water is the one having the most fun. " Is that true?
Kelly Slater: Well, the guy with the best results right now was probably having the most fun in the first two events. But as MR [Mark Richards] once said, "The best surfer doesn't always win, rarely does." Maybe call him and ask him about that.
Lately, you've been looking so loose on your surfboard, what's your secret?
Move the wide point of your board back and make them three inches shorter and a little wider throughout the whole board.
It's that easy?
It can be.
When Mick Fanning surf's in contests, it appears he's really, really serious, do you think he's having fun?
Not really. He has a lot of fun when they're over though… probably more than most.
Do you buy it when Dane Reynolds says he's miserable and hates competing, or do you think he's just messing with us?
Well, I really don't think he's miserable or he wouldn't be doing the tour. You would think anyone doing something they hate either has something to prove or feels pressure that they have to. He must be trying to feel it all out.
Do you think some of the other guys on tour are getting frustrated with you winning all the time?
I don't know. It sure feels like it when they're all rooting for the other guys I'm surfing against, and it's not even one of their good friends. But I've had the voodoo doll out on guys before, so it's all good.
When you commentate, you seem to have an expert grasp on the mechanics of surfing. Do any of the other guys on tour ask you for tips, or are they too proud and macho to do that? Would you offer pointers if they did?
I love learning the mechanics of surfing. I do think I picked up on something that very few people know about ten or twelve years ago and I haven't fully shared that. I would love to test it out on a few young guys to see if they would benefit from the ideas behind it. It's not cool to try and tell anyone how to do anything unless they're open to it. I have helped out a few guys on the street here and there that ask for help. I've actually been writing a book for ten years about technique but have been hesitant to put it out.
Put it out, man! We need that thing.
We'll just have to wait and see about that.
We all go through ups and downs when it comes to being motivated to surf. What do you do to stay hyped to surf all the time?
Don't surf all the time. Then you're psyched when you do.
What have people been asking you lately in interviews?
Why do I look so happy.
So why do you look so happy all the time? Is it your girlfriend? Come on, man, give us some gossip.
She's changed my outlook on a lot of things in life. It's not something I really want to expose or anything other than to say I'm a really lucky and grateful guy. To quote Hansel, "It's really changed my perspective on shit."
If you could interview anyone alive or dead, who would it be and what would you ask them about?
Nikola Tesla. I'd ask him how to create light with no visible source and how to build an electromagnetic flying machine using anti-gravity.
What interests you? What do you want to talk about during interviews?
I'm interested in healthy food and water. I love alternative news that more often gives the truth about what's really going on in the world without bias. A lot of things freak people out, so I don't think most people could handle alternative theories being in popular press.
You've been out of the tabloids for a minute, is that good or bad? Do you even care?
I do care. It's great to not think about that.
As a celebrity, is it easier to get people to notice your personal causes?
I'd say so. Unfortunately, in a fake way sometimes. The truth is when anyone has a great cause for the right reasons people will listen. Celebrityism just probably makes things a little easier on some level.
Being in the position to get through to a lot of people, do you have any advice or opinions on the upcoming presidential elections?
Absolutely. People want to be told what they're supposed to believe and that everything is great and is gonna be great and they'll get what they want. No one wants to hear the awful truth of why we do things and what the future is gonna hold because it's scary and things have to change. We're polluting our food, water, and children at alarming rates. The only people the masses will vote for are people falling over themselves to tell everyone what they want to hear and who don't make mistakes.
It was highly unpopular to be against this war six years ago, and now they're all saying they were against it from the start to gain votes. There are a couple of good guys out there, but they get no airtime and they're way too honest, so it makes people uncomfortable. Mike Gravel is one and Ralph Nader is another. Ron Paul got some airtime, but he's gotten pushed to the side, also.
I think Rock The Vote's just a good way for rock stars to get free press. That's not to say people don't make a difference, because that's where great changes come from and things get done, but when it comes to the presidential race I'm convinced that it's already spoken for. [end interview]
In July the Tour headed to South Africa for the Billabong Pro held at a wave that perfectly compliments Slater's forehand abilities, Jeffrey's Bay. There really was no denying the fact that he was going to win, it was inevitable.
Final Heat from Jbay:
Being about the halfway mark of the season we decided to run a photo gallery on Slater's spectacular run up to this point:
Halfway Home Dream Year Gallery:
"Somewhere" in Bali was the next on Tour for the Rip Curl Pro Search and though Slater didn't quite come up with the victory, he did still manage to amaze us once again with a switchfoot barrel that got him a 10, as well as a 9.17 as his other wave in the heat.
Slater's 10 and 9.17 switchfoot at Bali:
In our annual “Photo Issue” we decided to show the world a simple, but crucial part of Slater's surfing, the check turn, in our How To section. Here's the gallery to see for yourself. Take notes, as no one else does this better:
How To Check Turns:
In the beginning of September the Tour headed to the famed wave of Lower Trestles for the Boost Mobile Pro, an event that Slater has dominated in the past. Here’s the 10 he nabbed in Round 3:
Slater's 10 in Round 3 at Trestles:
Though the win was put under the microscope by many, he still came away with the victory. Check out our Tour Talk debate about Trestles, as well as our extended photo gallery:
Tour Talk video:
It was now obvious that it was only a matter of time before Slater claimed his unmatched 9th World Title. In our Bali Issue we sat Kelly down for a little chat about this feat:
Revolution Number Nine?
Slater talks titles as the 2008 WCT season turns the corner.
At the halfway mark of the 2008 tour it's no secret that Kelly Slater has a stranglehold on the ratings. At this point it's going to take a miracle to keep him from his ninth World Title. Transworld SURF caught up with him for a mid-year head check during what may be remembered as the most dominant season in pro surfing history. Enjoy this Q&A by South African correspondent Craig Ritchie, right after Slater's win at J-Bay.
Transworld SURF: Are you still having as much fun now as you were when you won that first event at the beginning of the year?
Kelly Slater: Pretty much. I probably enjoyed myself a little bit more at that one because I thought I was going to get off the tour so there were no consequences. We've had six weeks off now and coming to this event everyone is talking about the ratings and potentials and what's going to happen, so it starts to weigh on you.
I got a little caught up in that so I probably didn't have quite as much fun at this one. But walking down before the semis and the final, I took note of how I had fun at those previous events and it worked. So, when I paddled out for the final against Mick, I was just reflecting on the Gold Coast and remembering how serious and focused he was while I was just sort of in the moment and having fun and not worried about the outcome. I was playing with a dog down on the beach before, just trying to be loose and enjoy where I was at, and it seemed to work out.
You say that you just want to have fun and not take it too seriously, but surely the ratings lead, winning four out of five comps, and number nine must be on your mind a bit?
Oh it's there, for sure, but that's when you have to use your wisdom and not get caught up in things. I do know one hundred percent that you can win or lose having fun or being focused and serious, and my results when I've been having fun speak for themselves. So if I go out there and put that stuff out of my mind, nine times out of ten my result is going to be better than doing it the other way.
Also, when you have that frame of mind it doesn't really matter if you win or lose. I definitely got caught up in it today, with Joel probably the most, thinking more about the win. But I'm way ahead of where I expected to be at this point so it's all been a bonus.
And what about winning number nine? Is the idea of that any more or less special than winning number eight, or number one, or any of the others?
Well, I guess the significance of that would be potentially giving me a shot at going for ten. Winning number nine could be every bit as special as winning the other ones. If I get to a few more semis, it's going to be pretty much impossible to catch up at that point, especially if the other guys aren't winning those events. But those guys know what they've got to do. Joel, Andy, C.J., as well as Taj—they've been in that situation before. And Taj, his results are nothing to be ashamed of. He just made a semi here and a semi at Bells. He's definitely got some good results, too.
If I was in their position, I would be looking at it like "Okay, maybe Kelly's going to have the back half of the year like I started, or worse, and I can have a back half of the year like Kelly started with." Nothing's impossible.
And if you do take it down early, do you still see yourself going to every event the rest of the year?
Well, my goal at the beginning of the year was to have more free time, so… If I could wrap something up early—that's a big if and I don't expect to do that at this point—then I'd be looking at it event by event and see how I feel, and just try and approach each one with the right frame of mind.
Now, I know you've been asked this a lot, but I have to put it to you again. If you get number nine and go for ten next year but don't end up winning it, would you come back to give it another shot?
It's all about the approach, really. If I win nine but I don't win ten, I'm not going to finish my life frustrated. It's about enjoying what I've got right now, and if I don't get that goal next year, I won't be spending the next five years of my life trying for it. I'm satisfied with what I've got. I mean, I could literally quit today and be very happy. [end interview]
Upon departing from Southern California, Slater then headed to the Iberian Peninsula leg of the Tour, with the first stop being the Quiksilver Pro France. If Slater had beat Adrian "Ace" Buchan in the finals, this would've sealed the deal on the Title, but Ace had other plans and earned himself his first World Tour victory, sending the Title wrap-up down the coast to Mundaka.
Slater's 9 in Round 2 at France:
Going into the Billabong Pro in Spain, Slater only had to make it past Round 3 to solidify the World Title. Here's an interview before the event with him:
He won his heat in Round 1, advancing straight to Round 3. And this morning is when, as you all know, the Champ was once again crowned, for an unheard of 9th time, easily making him the most dominant athlete in any sport. It's also the earliest a World Title has been decided.
So now the champ just gets to sit back and enjoy the rest of the season. If he wants to do events he can. If he doesn't, well then he gets to spend some time with that new girl of his and help her out with her homework this fall. I mean, he did just release another book, Kelly Slater: For The Love, so it's obvious that he's got the wits to help out with anything that any college professor can dish out.
One thing is sure though, Slater is king and at the age of 36 he continues to blow the surfing world back on it's feet. When all was thought that it was the time for Jordy and Dane, Slater said no way, and showed that he truly is the greatest surfer of all-time. Congrats Champ, and I guess we'll just be waiting to see if number 10 is anywhere in his thoughts…
Just a few of the many records that Kelly holds:
9-time ASP World Champion, youngest world champ (age 20), oldest world champ (age 36), only surfer to score a ‘Perfect 20’ heat total (Tahiti, 2005), most elite tour wins in pro surfing history (39), record five time Pipeline Masters Champion (1992, ’94, ’95, ’96 and ’99) and two time Triple Crown Champion (1995, 98), never finished lower than 6th on the Tour