Raft of stories from the Greatest Surfer Of All Time, including new J-Bay Great White account!
Cling to Kelly Slater, ladies and gentlemen, for he is ours, and he has no equal.
Once again, when push came to shove in a major surfing competition, he delivered a performance that was unmatched.
The surfing was a sideshow.
Slater’s faux enthusiasm for the athletes merely served as segues to more stories about the most important man in surfing, now and forever.
Turpel was euthanized. The lifeforce seemed to have been sucked from him, leaving a silenced husk (still grinning inanely, of course).
It was an absence of energy comparable to the aftermath of Pete Mel standing next to Stephanie Gilmore in the locker room (before making off with her soul).
Until now, not man nor beast has managed to quell Turpel’s glassy eyed enthusiasm.
Kelly Slater is something other.
Mick Fanning was left grunting nasally every now and then, before capitulating and falling under Kelly’s spell by asking him about Kelly.
No-one analyses Kelly like Kelly.
No-one wants to talk about Kelly more than Kelly.
Medina’s third title indeed has an asterisk.
It is the moment Kelly’s future finally crystalised. The moment he saw his path to once again dominate pro surfing until death (or Stalin-esque Martin Potter disappearance).
Dressed in what I feel should be his statutory outfit, plain grandad-necked shirt, sinewy neck muscles and unfeasibly smooth, lizard-brown head in full effect, he looked for all the world like the subject of a Netflix doc on cult leaders. The shirt was a black version of the one he wore to promote his Costa Rican spiritual awakening (later revealed as stakeholder, not just tripping punter).
The shirt was white then. He was at peace.
The symbolic significance of the shirt for each occasion was lost on no-one.
This morning he dressed for blood.
We see you, Kelly. A modern day anti-hero Bram Stoker would have been proud of.
Oh, he tried to be magnanimous, some comments seemed to complement the surfing, but scratch the surface and the true colours are apparent. The cutthroat viciousness that defined his approach to competition was thinly veiled.
To beat Medina you would have to “cripple him”.
One might imagine this is exactly a scenario played out many a sweaty night in his aluminium nightmare chamber poolside. You can almost hear the desperate phone calls to Charlie Goldsmith, brain nanny extraordinaire, in these dark moments…
“The dreams again, Kelly?”
“Tell me how you killed him this time… I’m here for you.”
I’ve always felt that Slater’s true post-career calling is as a commentator on the sport he dominated for so long, and this, I hope, I truly hope, is what will come to pass.
Imagine a rogue Slater, off script entirely and bending the production to his will.
He’s in the water, paddle battling Strider for position.
Now he’s sprinting up the beach and hip checking Turpel in the booth. Now dashing back to the sand and snatching the mic derisively from Kaipo for the post heat interview…
Imagine the questions!
Yesterday we had a glimpse.
With the fervour of a cocaine aficionado on a South American sabbatical, Kelly rampaged breathlessly through the heats. There was nothing he didn’t proffer opinion on, nothing he didn’t know.
It’s a Kelly we know, of course, epidemiologist or not.
The same Kelly who appeared on Joe Rogan, tripping from non-sequitur to non-story and back round again. It’s glorious in its pantomime ridiculousness.
Not even a (deep fake) shark sighting could stop him. It was merely an opportunity. And my, did he seize it. How is it that we’ve never heard Kelly’s angle of the Mick Fanning incident? Fuck me, the subtext screamed, incredulous he’d never been asked!
It was worth the wait.
Until now, no-one had realised that Kelly diverted the shark with his mind.
He stopped short of saying he was personally responsible for the sparing of Mick’s life that day, but we know the truth.
Strider reports from the line-up on the “splash” (that no-one actually saw), then passes to the booth wondering what Mick has to say about it.
We want to know, too. What a glorious opportunity!
Alas, we will never know.
Mick simply manages: “Look, it happens all the time, you see sharks…ummm…”
He has managed less than ten seconds of airtime. (Kelly is drumming his fingers impatiently throughout the 10 secs, a lifetime of no Kelly for Kelly).
Then, the “ummm”, a weakness.
And with it, he strikes.
“I’ve seen three breaches out here, the past few years. It’s common”, he thrusts, dismissively. “You just deal with it.”
And then, with no ummms at all, we get the story, the scoop.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever told Mick our story…”
What’s that, Kelly?
Are you really co-opting Mick’s shark story? I mean, I’m sure it’s given you sleepless nights, having catapulted ol’ Mick into the mainstream consciousness in a way you never quite managed, but come on…
But, what is perhaps more egregious, is the posing that it is, in fact, a story at all.
The story, Kelly’s story, is that he had surfed there for an hour prior to the attack (and miraculously didn’t get attacked? Is that the story? I’m not sure).
When he saw the boats and skis he saw the shark attack with his third eye, but, in an astonishing feat of second sight (which he will display again later) he knew that nothing happened and no-one was hurt.
“I felt it in my heart”, he says.
He was calm, that’s the thing.
Shark diverted, Mick saved.
He finishes this “story” with what I’ve come to recognise as a vocal tick of Kelly Slater when he realises the story has gone nowhere and he has just been talking so that people will pay attention.
“It’s so weird…”
Yeah, Kelly. So weird.
But, he’s not done.
Mick offers that he’s been out there since and things haven’t felt right and he’s had to go in.
But, before he’s even managed to finish the thought, Kelly is smashing his offering out the park!
“I’ve been the last guy in the water there, after dark, by myself…”
(You know, in case we didn’t understand that “last guy in the water” meant he was on his own.)
On Toledo, Kelly recalls how Kelly helped him at Pipe before smashing him at Pipe. Filipe fell on the easy part of the wave, according to Slater.
More so, he had surprised himself by getting that far in the first place.
“I don’t know how quickly we could pull that up?” Slater pitches to Joe.
I mean there’s just a world title heat playing out live, but let’s cut to historic footage of your heats…
Cut to Medina’s 9.03 for execution of the back flip. Turpel is excited (standard). Mick is speechless (“Are you keeeeding me?”).
“A small wave, probably just a four”, he offers, flatly.
(Joking, not joking, of course.)
But the pièce de résistance.
While Mick and Joe were busy talking, Kelly had employed his foresight.
He saw it coming.
“I was looking towards the ocean. I could see that coming at him. I knew something crazy was going to happen.”
In effect, a shrug.
I do wonder if it’s just the likes of us who can really savour Kelly, truly appreciate him in all his narcissistic weirdness.
I wonder what the Inertia crowd make of him, for example.
Do they see what we see?
Or do they see an oracle and hero, a flawless champion with no equal?
It’s hard to know.
But we should appreciate him, of that I’m sure. He’s a treasure. He’s our treasure.