Well, that's a wrap ladies and gentleman. Kelly Slater, 39, can add one more world champion trophy to his mantel. Arguably the most dominating athlete ever, Kelly Slater now claims the youngest and oldest surfer to ever win an ASP World Champion victory.
Kelly beat out Dan Ross in today's final heat at the Rip Curl Pro in San Francisco. With one minute left to go, Slater scored a 7.60 to put him in the lead going into the final seconds. "I'm in a daze," stutters Kelly minutes after his win. "You can't really hear out there [in the water.] We've got to do something about that…I was in the heat and I hear something about 'crowing the 11th world title.' I figured I had won."
The three-day contest was filled with rumors of imaginary shark sightings, bereaved heartache of a lost friend, and the premonition of Kelly becoming, well, 'Ke11y.' Going into the event, Kelly needed to finish in ninth place, or better, to secure his world title position.
"It's just personal satisfaction. I've dedicated my whole life to surfing and to competing, and to go a whole year and have it pay off…all that work and effort is a great feeling."
Paying deep respects to a dear friend and competitor, Kelly accomplished his 11th title one-year after Andy Irons passed away in a Dallas hotel room. AI's death, just days before Kelly cemented his tenth world title, left the surf community shocked and heartbroken, but Kelly noted the impact of his friend's life:
"It's sort of weird," said Slater about the irony of the day. "I was just thinking of a lot things coming together. In a way, it makes it a lot more special for me. I guess it's a way to celebrate my memories of him and just be thinking about him. That's been on my mind for the last few days. I just wrote a story about him that I put on The Inertia, and man…It's been a special time. Somebody's looking over us here, and it's probably Andy."
Kelly shocked the world over 20 years ago when he claimed his first world title as the youngest surfer to accomplish such a feat. He then won his tenth world title in Puerto Rico last year, somehow propelling him to an even higher stratosphere than he already was. 11 world titles is nothing short unimaginable. Quiksilver CEO, Bob McKnight boasted like a proud father would after Kelly’s win:
"WOW! Fantastic – there’s a long lineage of great titles… and its all been great for Quiksilver, its all great for Kelly. He’s just superman I guess. That last heat was something, really fun. 20 years now with the guy – he’s grown a lot in the 20 years so I’m sure a certain amount of it is accountable to him. And I just hope he keeps going, and I know we’ll keep going together. What a friend and a great guy, great example for kids and our industry, for everybody in surfing. He couldn't be more of a proud champion, better champion – he’s so deserving of it, and we’re absolutely thrilled with all his accomplishments."
After Kelly's 10th world title, rumors buzzed about a possible retirement. After the win today, Kelly commented on his age, leading pessimists to quiet the retirement rumors,
"Part of it is people always talk about my age and you know I'm 39, almost 40, and to me that's literally just a number. You can prove people wrong and stay super healthy. I don't see why at 50 I can't be in better shape than I am now. If anything I'd like to try to represent that to people. I eat well and I talk about it and I walk the walk and it shows in my ability physically."