“Slater is taking this very, very seriously”
The world’s greatest athlete, as correctly posited by Rob Lowe, has avoided, at least for one day, the executioner’s guillotine at the Margaret River Pro in Western Australia.
Slater, who is fifty-one, is wandering in unfamiliar scenes, rated twenty-sixth in the world which is four rungs below the #22 mid-year cutoff.
To avoid ending his career in ignominy, and the larger gloom of a tarnished legacy, the 11-time world champ needs to finish, likely, ninth or better in the event.
The air became naturally electric as Slater, who arrived in Margaret River at three am after a wild couple of tube-wrangling days on the Gold Coast, ran down the stairs to the beach, the paws of hundreds of truants beckoning over the fence at the Champ.
If there was any concern his barb was fast rusting, his spine corroded, it was quickly dispelled with an opening seven-six ride, his surfing full of the vibrations of power as those machines which rout out grooves in wood.
By heat’s end, Slater, nostrils flaring and hairy with the heat to kill, had easily despatched the world number one Joao Chianca, along with wildly talented wildcard Jack Thomas.
“It looks like a lot of joy in his surfing again… he’s feeling it,” said the two-time world champ Tom Carroll, a close friend of Slater’s for thirty-five years. “When Kelly starts feeling it, you can see how beautiful his surfing is. And it looked timeless. I’m flabbergasted. To surf at that level at fifty years of age and beyond, it’s a lot of work on the body…”