Kelly Slater Wins 3rd Vans Triple Crown And Gazes Into 2020
“I might have to do one more lap.”
In 1998, Celin Deon on was on the music charts, Titanic was in theaters, Bill Clinton was in the process of being impeached, and Kelly Slater won his last Vans Triple Crown title. Twenty-one years later, King Kelly has done it again, winning the 2019 Triple Crown in unlikely fashion.
“I have to let this sink in a little,” Kelly explained. “I didn’t really think about it because I haven’t focused on the Triple Crown in so long.”
The 11-time world champ went into this Hawaiian season without any real clear objectives, other than smash John John Florence’s Olympic dreams. He jumped into the fray at the Hawaiian Pro simply because he likes Haleiwa and the forecast was interesting. Jumping between an Akila Aipa-shaped twinnie and a Wade Tokoro, he found his way to the quarters.
In a post-heat interview at Haleiwa he rated the three stops of the Triple Crown as follows: Pipe’s his first love, Haleiwa’s second on the list, and Sunset ain’t really his glass of Kombucha. But when the World Cup of Surfing came around, he snagged a spot in the comp when Gabriel Medina withdrew, made a few heats, and headed into Pipe sitting 10th on the Triple Crown leaderboard.
“Medina gave me a gift,” joked Kelly.
At Pipe the Triple Crown race came down to a handful of surfers. Newly qualified Ethan Ewing sat in the pole position. Kelly and Michel Bourez needed to finish third or better to overtake him. And Jack Freestone needed to win the comp. Kelly knocked out Jackie Boy on a buzzer beater in the Quarters. And Michel went down in to Griffin Colapinto a couple heats later. When Michel lost, the Triple Crown Title was Kelly’s.
Kelly couldn’t find an answer to Italo Ferreira in the semifinals at Pipe, but nobody stopped the smily Brazilian. Italo ran the table, winning the World Title and the Pipe Masters. But Kelly matched his result from last year with a third.
Kelly finishes the season sitting eighth on the leaderboard. He’s 47 years old and there’s been a lot of speculation about whether or not this year has been his swan song. So, is this his moment to ride off in the sunset? Nope, probably not.
“I might have to do one more lap, we’ll see. I feel like I finally, it took me this long to where I finally feel comfortable in heats,” Kelly said of his 2020 plans. “I feel like I’ve been really calm and more comfortable in heats. Sometimes you need that year to get that going. We’ll see.”
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