Kelly Slater films Aca Lalabalavu from jetski, Cloudbreak
Now, this is a very telling photograph. In a lot of ways. One thing you mightn't know is that Kelly has his own jetski on Tavarua and visits the place whenever he can. He loves Fiji for the waves, vibes, and the people. "He's so relaxed, you saw him in the kitchen serving his own lunch and dinner," says Jake Patterson, who's career has intersected with Kelly's at many points. "It's a home away from home for him. He's spent a lot of time there, knows the people there, and he's done a lot of charity work for those people." If y'need further proof, watch any replay that cuts away to the bar during one of Kelly's heats, and you'll see every local woman watching, being very vocal in support of the Floridian. He's real loved there, and it's reciprocated.
Now, we come to this photo. On the morning of the final, a very relaxed Kelly was burning around the channel on his own ski, filming his pals from the shoulder with his GoPro. On this particular wave he's capturing Aca Lalabalavu, who was the local trials winner and subsequent event wildcard. He's also the son of Chief Druku of Tavarua.
We've all seen the surfing Kelly went on to do after this photo was taken, but this moment lets us know just how relaxed the man was in the a.m. of game day. Not long after this was captured, he paddled into the lineup and posted a perfect 20-point total. For a more in-depth breakdown of his performance (as told by Taj Burrow, Jake Patterson, Jeremy Flores and Nathan Webster), head over here.