Kelly's last Pipe Masters win, 2013.
Kelly Slater Will Surf The Pipe Masters
“No plans for a last hoorah yet,” Kelly tells Stab.
This time last year—after a series of second and third round exits in Oz, opting out of Rio, and bouncing back with a semifinal finish in Fiji, a quarters in South Africa, a win at Chopes, a quarters at Lowers and a semi at Pipe—people started to talk about Kelly Slater and the flirty dozen.
Kelly finished seventh in 2016 and after John Florence was crowned World Champ, a reinspired KS announced, “I’m going to take another stab the title.”
Speculation soared; surf media headlines echoed: “12.”
Snapper 2017 came around and Kelly slipped into a quarterfinal finish. He looked fine-tuned, and said flirtatious speculation was only overshadowed by Owen Wright’s return to form and first place finish following his traumatic brain injury at the same event. Post-Snapper, Kelly fell into a competitive depression. He sat out Rio citing back issues. He returned to Fiji - for a contest that his company, Outerknown, sponsored (presumably securing him a wildcard in the event until he’s 75) and quickly fell in round three.
While John Florence and Jordy Smith vied to tear the yellow jersey off Wilko’s back the possibility of number 12 slipped away. A top ten finish, however, remained.
At J-Bay, Kelly revved his engine. He was a 45-Horse-Power machine - his cylinders crashed and kicked. He roared through round one. He toyed with the impossibles section with a deep double cover-up for a 9.10. He exited the tube with two hands clasped behind his arched back, did a pump and jammed his hands into his hips with a “suck it” motion that brought us back to '96.
Then, the next day while warming up for his round three heat, disaster struck. Photog Alan Van Gysen sent us a series of photos. The first featured Kelly and a textbook alley-oop. Another, Kelly and textbook closeout tube. Finally, Kelly crawling up the beach, his foot later determined broken.
Following the sidelining injury, his extracurriculars took on the determination and success of the WSL water patrol and chopper taking down an unauthorized drone at Jaws.
He threw a private event in Lemoore, that we so gracefully attended… And early that morning, he was seen - for the first time - atop a surfboard at his wave pool.
He got the permits approved for the world’s greatest retirement home for surfers Florida, or the world has ever seen.
And, presumably, Outerknown put forth a campaign that benefited the environment.
Yesterday, Kelly returned to natural tubes in New Jersey. He borrowed Sam Hammer’s board—Billabong stickers and all—as Slater sightings trickled through Stab’s staff's iPhones.
The injury that threatened to take Kelly out for the season is, albeit slowly, healing.
“My foot’s at 50-60 percent,” Kelly told Stab. “I’m planning on surfing Pipe and have no plans for a last hoorah yet. My focus now is getting my foot well enough to not think about. Which could be months of avoiding injury and not pushing too hard.”
Will his Slater's Pipe presence throw a wrench into the title race's freshly lubricated gears?
Will he return to the tour next year as a part-time wildcard? We are of the belief he should be able to enjoy entrance into any event he pleases. A selective, nothing-to-lose Kelly Slater is someone worth fearing, and will forever be a fan favorite.
Lest we forget, Kelly is a fucking weapon at Pipe.