Will Kelly Slater chase a 12th World Title?

Every December, Kelly Slater is asked if he’ll compete on the following year’s World Tour. Kelly don’t do halves and if he’s competing, then it’s for a title. Each year his responses are coloured with coyness, and each March everybody – fans, ASP and competitors alike (winning a title without Kelly on tour ain’t as sweet) – hopes he’ll show up to Snapper looking resolute. But we won’t stop asking.

And what else is up with Kelly right now? There was that round three loss at J-Bay to Matt Wilkinson, and more interestingly, the total nonchalance with which Kelly behaved afterwards. A man usually so compelled to win, disarms when he accepts (or appears to accept) an early loss so calmly. He joked afterwards about Wilko getting slower waves, he charmed the mainstream media, and talked freely to spectators and fans. He looked a man in a happy place.

We wanted to know about Kelly’s feels towards the tour right now, what his opinion on the Jeremy Flores incident is, or Jordy Smith’s early J-Bay loss, and how Mr Slater's feeling about 2015 in general…

Interview by Craig Jarvis

Stab: Something’s changed. Your contest head is laissez-faire at the moment. Fair?
KS: Well, I am struggling to be excited, and it probably shows. When the waves are good, like here in J-Bay, it's easy to want it, but I definitely need some more purpose put into my desire to compete. I'm at a real crossroads with it all.

Is there is still hunger for a 12th title? To be honest, I'm not sure it would really change anything for me to win the 12th. At the end of a year it is rewarding for the time you've spent if you finish on top, but my perspective is changing for sure. What seems important at one stage in your life can feel very far from that at another.

Do you have an opinion on the Jeremy Flores incident? These things should be addressed, and not be brushed over. It's not tolerated in other professional sports. Sometimes we want to have a reason to blame our failures on other people. One time in Japan in ‘92 I had a heat with Sunny that was a potential title decider and I got a priority paddling interference. It was a super lame call and sunny and the judges knew it. I rushed the judges' stand and started punching the door and screaming. I don't know what I was gonna do or how it was gonna benefit me, but it seemed right in the moment. If Jeremy gets suspended for Tahiti and then narrowly misses the tour cut this year, he'll be able to point the finger at his suspension. I hope he digs himself out of that position and holds himself accountable instead. (Some time after this interview, the ASP announced Jeremy’s suspension and fine. Jeremy has accepted the punishment and held himself accountable.)

We still aren't used to the lack of mountain and wave, but the oop suaves are certainly familiar. South Africa. Photo: Ryan Miller We still aren't used to the lack of mountain and wave, but the oop suaves are certainly familiar. West Oz. Photo: Ryan Miller

Do you have an opinion on Jordy’s loss at the competition? I told Freddie P during that heat that the forehand, layback snap, which is usually a safe go-to maneuver, wasn't working with the curve of the wave. I fell on two of them. If Jordy needed an 8 I think the situation would've been easier for him to shred that wave. That's where the average person simply doesn't understand how it is to be in that pressure position, but also where it's way too easy to overthink it. Jordy is surfing amazingly good right now. He just seems to be lacking the mindset and comfortability inside to lock things up in heats for some reason. His Instagram afterwards was totally bizarre* and summed up a lot about where he is at. I think they call it a #HumbleBrag.

Did you have your boards wired for the conditions at Supers on the day you lost? I didn't freesurf a single wave at Supers beforehand, so I don't know. My board was probably a little short in the rail line and too light. It feels like a really good board for Trestles where I surfed it last week but a bit light over a certain speed. It's locked to my feet but I think this trip opened my eyes to a lot of board design stuff. I started making small boards to fit certain hollow and small curves waves. But there's no replacement for the right length of rail line matched with rocker and weight in a board at a wave like Jeffrey's. We never stop learning!

The Brazilian clique made noise in J-Bay. Lots of people talking up Filipe Toledo, but he was kinda lost at Supers. Yeah. He'll need to sort that out. His air game is literally second to none right now. If his carving and tuberiding were on that level, none of us could touch him.

On the other hand, Gabs improved at Supers. Gabby easily adjusts anywhere. In my opinion he looked almost bad in heat one and looked sketchy in heat two but round three he started lighting it up.

Are you going to surf in any big wave events? If schedule allows, absolutely.

And what about 2015 in general? Are you committing to another year on the tour? I’ve made no decision yet. There's something nagging at me, about something unfinished or incomplete there, but I'll have to figure that out.

*The Jordy Instagram post Kelly’s talking about:

A huge congratulations to @cjhobgood for surfing with extreme confidence and determination ,I was feeling like the greater surfer in that heat but it goes to show that you can never count your opponents out.. He had a plan and did not move left or right if it.. Knowing what he could do,and trusting in his ability he pulled me slightly down the point and out of my usual position ... Excellent work on his behalf.. As much as I wanted to win J Bay,and it's the one event that I have an upper hand over.. I truly respect all the competitors for everything they do..and all the effort they put in.. Hard work pays off... To all the spectators and fans,thank you so much for all your support... This is another learning curve for me, but there will always be next year... Best of luck @cjhobgood and of course to the guys staying with us @josh_kerr84 take it all the way...

A far, vastly evolved, cry from the backside grab we feel in love with from Momentum. Photo: Ryan Miller A far, vastly evolved, cry from the backside grab we fell in love with from Momentum. Photo: Ryan Miller