Slater goes down fighting while fans weep!

Surf fans inconsolable as 51-year-old Kelly Slater’s three decades long professional career ends in sudden-death matchup at Margaret River Pro!

"He has been the custodian of pro surfing… The greatest of all time, that will never be matched."

After Kelly Slater’s barely conceivable heroics yesterday, beating the world number one and keeping his pro career alive for one more day, the Champ finally laid down his rusted barb today following his defeat in the round of thirty two at the Margaret River Pro. 

To avoid ending his career in ignominy, and the larger gloom of a tarnished legacy, the 11-time world champ needed to finish, likely, ninth or better in the event.

On a warm Autumn afternoon at the holiday hamlet three-and-a-half hours south of Perth, Slater was beaten by the Australian surfer Liam O’Brien, the surprise stand-out surfer of the event, John John Florence’s histrionics notwithstanding. 

“If there’s one point of difference… Liam’s been able to do three complete, full-blooded manoeuvres while Kelly’s been doin’ roundhouse cutties,” the 1978 world champ Wayne “Rabbit” Bartholomew said, although a late flurry, including the equal highest-score of the heat, a 7.83, reduced the margin somewhat. 

Slater was the youngest world champ (20, 1992) and the oldest world champ ever (39, 2011), has most world titles (11). most contest wins (56), etc etc.

Likely, he’ll compete at the next contest as a wildcard, The Surf Ranch Pro, a venue he created, as well as the Outerknown Pro in Tahiti, an event which he sponsors.

“He has been the custodian of pro surfing for the last thirty-one years. The greatest of all time, that will never be matched,” said the commentator and former tour surfer Richie Lovett.

“He’s left nothing on the table,” said Rabbit.

John John Florence makes “tragic mockery of opposition” at Margaret River Pro, “When waves turn on, Florence surfs with the latent power of an eagle hunting on a thermal!”

“He’s connecting to that power of the Southern Ocean.”

We’ll begin with wine, the finest in the land, obviously.

And how about the food? Sustainable, locally sourced, as fresh as the breeze. Farm to table!


Then wild, raw nature. RAW you understand.

Perfect waves, HEARTWRENCHING sunsets. Soil so soily you want to roll around in it like a dog, grinding it into your orifices.

Chop yourself some BIG, FAT LINES of West Aus dirt!

And the golf? Oh the golf. You’d whore out your sister for the run on those greens.

Fuck me.

Is Western Austrailia a pyramid scheme? Every year it gets less appealing, the way things do when shilled to the point of psychological torment.

It’s a WSL speciality, of course. The door-to-door salesmen of professional sports leagues.

What you want? Acai? Collagen supplements? Fucking…ladders?

They’re a kick in the arse from hawking scrap metal.

I get it. It’s a money game. Events hinge on funding from tourist boards and plucky start-ups swayed by Santa Monica pitchdecks. But it makes the end product seem cheap, unserious. Especially when you give voice to it with Kaipo and Joe. In that context, excellent surfing becomes a sideshow to clownish, performative advertising.

Thankfully, we have John Florence, whose turns have the sort of tectonic power that can shift hearts and ideologies.

And we have clean, building swell over an aesthetiucally pleasing line-up. A clear peak. A favoured right and a maligned left. Opportunities for all.

Florence seems to be building a rhythm this year. He acknowledged as much in his post heat interview when pressed by Stace Galbraith about his tactics. “I’m just kind of surfing how I surf,” he mused.

And that’s why we love him. His arcs of character and rail appeal to our core sensibilities, if not always judging criteria. But when the waves turn on, Florence surfs with the latent power of an eagle, hunting on a thermal.

“He gets it,” said Tom Carroll via phone in, levitating somewhere beyond. “He’s connecting to that power of the Southern Ocean.”

Carroll, of course, in his late-life guru phase, was referencing the assumptions we all make about Florence, the “it” being our love for surfing, why we do it, that opaque, soulful connection we sometimes feel but rarely say if we’ve any sense of dignity or respectable position in polite society.

But at the end of the day, John Florence is still here competing for world titles. And that’s not very zen. Neither are his actions on days like today when he makes tragic mockery of his opposition. Carlos Munoz does not belong in the same league.

Gabriel Medina does, and today there was a measure of composure in his surfing that displayed the same burgeoning comfort and rhythm that Florence alluded to.

What’s been forgotten, or misrememberd, about Florence’s Margaret River performances of old, is how close Gabriel Medina came to ending him. My memory is of traded nines and splitting hairs.

Medina doesn’t have the aesthetic to appeal to a certain breed of highfalutin surf fan, but examine the depth of his bottom turns at Main Break. Observe the speed with which he projects up the face. Witness the precison as he strikes the lip.

Florence is supreme, but Medina is right there.

“It feels good to finally surf,” he said post-heat, with chilling calm.

It feels like we’ve been waiting to see Medina unleashed all season. That day is coming, and it could be tomorrow.

With the exception of Ibelli, Robson, Fioravanti and Igarashi, all the important players advanced today. We might well question whether everyone in that group is a player, of course, but Kanoa certainly should be.

Could he really fall off Tour? I won’t pretend to know the various scenarios that see him saved or culled, but why should I? If the WSL want to make this Cut more impactful they need to do a better job of outlining this for fans, beyond the half-baked vagueness of “soandso needs a strong result…”

Notable for saving themselves today were Kelly Slater, Zeke Lau and Kolohe Andino, who all took unlikely top honours in their opening heats.

I’ll keep my powder dry and words few on Slater today, because there will be much more to say in time, regardless of how the days pan out.

There was a litany of excuses today, despite his victory. It was almost as if he’d front-loaded them, expecting to lose. He’d got here late, three in the morning. It was a fifteen hour journey. He’d surfed in a northerly, the worst thing you can do, he said. There was a kick away air, a good board broken. And so on and so forth.

We get it, Kelly, excuses come more readily than wins these days.

There’ll be plenty of opportunity for Slater in the coming days, and everyone else. And that’s the great thing about Main Break, it’s one of the more democratic waves on Tour. It favours neither goofy, nor regular. Airs might be a point of difference, but commitment to sections in more traditional or purist style will be equally rewarded.

We’ll still have the red, dusty gloryholes of the West Australian tourist board shoved down our throats, of course, (before, after and especially during heats) but thankfully, the surfing should dampen the pain, if not snuff out the noise.

Failing that, just turn the sound off, or get your beak in the dust and get into it. Farm to table, naturally.

Open thread: Comment live, Margaret River Pro, as Kelly Slater fights for survival in wild building surf!

Hot surf chat!

Slater's nostrils were hairy with the heat to kill!

Fifty-one-year-old Kelly Slater shocks surf fans beating world #1 and avoiding executioner’s guillotine at Margaret River Pro, “I committed my life to this, all of this”

“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…”

Open Thread: Comment Live, Margaret River Pro Day One where surfers present their necks for the executioners sword!

Surf talk time!