You think what has to happen for Kelly to win at Pipe is too fantastic? Wait. He's done it before. Twice…
Kelly Slater isn’t just the most enduring and surprising (and clean!) athlete in history. His native intelligence is married to an acute sense of history and precedent and so he knows…really knows… just how theoretically possible his chances of a world title win at Pipe are.
What a way to bookend his career, with the most stunning of come-from-behind wins, better even than 1995 (when Sunny choked and Rob Machado high-fived) and 1998 when Danny Wills and Mick Campbell’s sandhill training counted for nought in the Pipeline lineup.
Right now, the prevailing wind of opinion is that he’s pretty much out of contention at Pipeline.
“I can’t remember Kelly having these odds against him for a final showdown at Pipe,” says ASP Tour Manager Al Hunt.
“I don’t think Kelly ever won a title when ONLY the victory would matter and, remember, Kelly can still win Pipe and not be the champion,” says World Championship Tour Manager Renato Hickel.
Let’s ask Kelly about his famous ’95 win.
“In 95, sunny had to get 9th or less and got 17th, I believe. Rob was then in the lead after out semifinal and I had to win to pass him. I think this one is just about the same but if medina gets a 9th and I win I would lose by 300 points. Mick and I will likely both be on bottom of draw and I could theoretically have him in the semis and would have to win the final to pass him if I beat him in that. It would be about as far fetched as it gets in my corner.”
Far fetched, maybe, but it’s the anything-is-possible mindset of Kelly that keeps him moving. Before Kelly, who’d imagine a surfer coming along and winning 11 world titles, including 54 events, and still be challenging for the crown at nearly 43?
“I love the scenario ’cause it’s a very outside chance for myself but not unrealistic,” says Kelly. “I’ve won on average every three years at Pipe so I have that chance. Mick’s best in man-on-man years is a third last year and it he repeats that and I win I would pass him. Medina has had a 5th I believe but his other two results would give me an open chance. That being said, I estimate my chances at about 5% or 1 in 20. It’s been 19 years since it was this scenario but it went my way that time. 1998 was very similar also.”
And Gabriel, if he wins, won’t he steal Kelly’s record for youngest-ever world champion? God no!
“No matter what happens, Medina is older than I was when I won. He’ll be 21 in December and I turned 21 in Feb after winning. I also won prior to Hawaii in October so I’m guessing that remains no matter what.”
It’s also instructive to note that if Kelly wins at Pipe, it’ll be his eighth Pipe Masters. Kelly won his first in 1992 (when he was 20) and also last year, 2013 (aged 41).