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By Brad Melekian
Last Tuesday, on the Gold Coast of Australia, eight-time world surfing champion Kelly Slater found himself in a familiar position.
Standing atop the winner’s podium in the surf town of Coolangatta, oversized trophy hoisted overhead, Slater celebrated his victory at the first event of the 2008 ASP World Tour season with a practiced aplomb.
It was his 34th career victory on the ASP Tour, more than any other surfer in history. With eight world titles, Slater is the winningest surfer of all-time, having doubled the total of world titles won by the next-closest surfer, Australian Mark Richards.
But as much as a Slater victory scene was familiar, it was odd at the same time. Slater has approached this year’s tour – and, indeed, the past several years, including 2006, when he won the world title – with a pronounced ambivalence.
There was some question as to whether Slater would even show up at the Quiksilver Pro, and now that he’s won it, he won’t commit to whether he’ll go to the next event, the Rip Curl Pro at Bell’s Beach, also in Australia.
Coming into this year, he said he planned to participate on the tour selectively, though most surfing insiders thought that his participation would be dictated by his performance – if he were winning, he’d stay; if not, he’d bail.
Slater has said he won’t compete at the next event at Bell’s, but it’s possible that his win last week will draw him to the next event.