The man still has some magic dust behind his ears.
Kelly Slater Defeats Filipe Toledo In A Bona Fide "Superheat"
Low scores, high drama!
If you were to look at the results of Men's Quarterfinal 3 at the Corona Bali Pro, you might think, "Oh, cool."
Kelly Slater's 12.3 to Filipe Toledo's 10.53 doesn't exactly scream must watch!
But anybody who saw the heat knows: this was the most exciting 30-minutes in WSL surfing this year.
But before one can understand why, (s)he must first consider the context. Let's recall:
- This is likely Kelly's last year on Tour, adding 25% excitement to anything he does.
- Filipe has been the standout at this event, while Slater has steadily improved throughout the rounds
- There have been three down days since the last time they surfed, leaving room for conjecture—Lots of it! People (Stab included) loved talking about whether or not Slater could defeat Filipe.
- Slater fanned the flames himself, casting these fiery words in Filipe's direction:
- The swell looked pretty special on the forecast, leading Kelly to say, "Hopefully it's six-foot tubes." (Spoiler: it was)
- Yesterday's session at KFC's added another layer of psychological warfare (see below)
- The fans got involved (WSL readers had Filipe winning 58% to Slater's 42%; Stab fans went 61% to 39% in Slater's favor).
Enough pregame drama for ya?
Then, before the heat, Kaipo Guerrero found Filipe Toledo and asked him for a prediction. Here's what he got:
According to Pottz, Kelly Slater never surfs KFC’s (the playful reef just to Keramas’ west).
Then, in yesterday's howling offshores, Slater made an exception to this rule. It just so happened that his upcoming competitor, Filipe Toledo, was busy tearing apart the right-hand wedge at the very same time. According to Pottz, this was no coincidence.
“He didn’t even look at me," Filipe said when asked about Slater's surprise arrival. "He’s scary [laughs].”
Pottz saw this as a clear competitive tactic, and considering Filipe's response it might just have worked.
Finally, after three days of build-up, the heat began. And wouldn't you know it, after a sleepy low-tide morning, the waves started pumping.
On his first wave, Slater was straight into the tube, doing a quick turn then kicking out in front of his competitor to maintain priority. Classic chia lord.
Slater then fell on two impossible barrels that you somehow expected him to make, while Filipe threaded an outside bomb to completion. Had Slater's magic finally run out?
Thanks to the ocean, which was a little bit junky but never stopped pumping, the answer was a hard no. Slater threaded a high-line tube on his next wave and went straight into a full-rail wrap, surviving the bottom-out by stomping on his right heel and establishing a point of difference between he and his competitor.
Slater: 7.33. Filipe: 6.33. (see below)
The boys continued to go back and forth, making some tubes and falling on others, each ride exciting in its own way. Then Pottz came in with his second poignant offering in the last hour, which is surely some sort of record:
“The guys are going barrel for barrel, Joe," the '89 Champ proclaimed. "But not many guys come out on top of Slater in a tube shootout. Filipe is playing Kelly’s game right now."
Pottz then recommended that Filipe should abandon the barrel and go for an air. On Toledo's next wave, he did just that.
Slater and Filipe then fought over an inside scrap. Slater, who had priority, scraped in at the last second, forcing Filipe to jump over the falls.
For the first time in 25 minutes, the ocean took a rest. Filipe needed a high-five and there were no waves in sight.
Then, with 30 seconds left, a final wave approached. It was smaller than the rest but clearly a closeout, which actually favored Filipe. However a mistimed launch resulted in a broken board, and Kelly celebrated like he'd just won his twelfth title (see below).
They say getting older is all about appreciating the little things. But for Slater, this quarterfinal win was huge.
Slater returned to shore with a watermelon grin and Filipe with his tail between his arms.
"There's a couple guys you want to see in waves like this, and Filipe's one of them," Slater said in his post-heat presser (we're paraphrasing here). "The whole lead-up to this heat put the pressure on him and took it off me. I felt in rhythm with the waves. He didn't get to do a big spin or anything. I let him go on that last wave and didn't want to watch—then I heard his board break. He let me know I got lucky [laughs.]"
Rosie Hodge then asked Slater about his World Title intentions.
(Again, paraphrasing) "I don't want to get ahead of myself," Slater responded. "I've got so much to work on before that becomes a possibility, and this week I've mainly been thinking about Sunny. We're all just hoping he can get better."