Exclusive: Kelly Slater Reveals His WSL Finals Favorites - Stab Mag
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The King calls it how he sees it. Photo: Jimmy Wilson

Exclusive: Kelly Slater Reveals His WSL Finals Favorites

“I hope ____ takes it because he put in the work, but my gut says ____ is too strong out there.”

Words by Michael Ciaramella

Earlier this week, we posted a video that showcased most of the WSL Finalists practicing at Lower Trestles before the main event (click here to find out when it will run).

In the video (also featured above), you’ll find the likes of Gabriel Medina, Italo Ferreira, Conner Coffin, Carissa Moore, Sally Fitz and more doing their thing on the slopey Southern California walls. Approaches to the wave varied depending on their personal styles, with Conner and Carissa sticking to mostly face-based maneuvers and Gab and Italo taking to the sky. In general terms, everyone looked good.

Then came Kelly Slater.

Turning 50 in just a few months, it’s unfathomable that Slater has retained his Tour spot again for 2023 — especially when you consider that he only surfed in one-third(!) of the CT events this year. But he’s done it, and quite easily at that, the main reason for which has become painstakingly clear: Kelly is still surfing significantly better than most of the “top” surfers in the world.

To our eye, Kelly would have won the heat this day. He had the sharpest angles, the most powerful turns, and he surfed each wave the way it was meant to be surfed — with explosive maneuvers that flowed effortlessly from one to the next. Unlike the young hot-shots, Kelly refuses to waste sections in order to set up for one fabulous-if-at-this-point-monotonous crescendo. And it’s incredibly refreshing.

Alas, Kelly will not be competing in this year’s WSL Finals. That’s what happens when a nagging injury forces you to skip the primary leg of the Tour. So unfortunately, we won’t get to see our theory of him being Lowers’ top dog (31 years after his maiden victory out there) put to the test.

On the bright side, the fact that he’s not in the event means Kelly can look at the WSL Finals objectively and provide unbiased insight. So we hit him up and asked his opinion on who would win, based on the performances he’s seen this week and the current forecast.

Kelly said:

Hmmm. Medina looks super solid. I haven’t seen Filipe this week but he’s ridiculous out there. I hope it is a good competition and Medina takes it ’cause he put in the work but my gut says Filipe is too strong out there. Also depends on if it’s gonna be big and slopey kind of waves without much lip. That changes the stats a bit and brings in the carve game more so than if it’s small. So it depends on which day they run to some degree. Conner and Morgan have a serious dilemma just physically ahead of them.

Then we asked if anyone could touch Carissa…

Hmmm. When it’s big and consistent like it will be I think it’s a tall order.

So there you have it. Kelly’s picks, whether consciously or not, follow the numbers. Carissa and Filipe for the win, says the most talented man to ever chase liquid wind shrapnel around the world.

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