“I Figured Out How To Surf Heats Again”- Kelly Slater Wins His First CT Event Since 2013
Over John John Florence, who secured the yellow singlet.
In 2014, John and Kelly faced off in the semifinals at Chopes. It went down as one of the best heats in the history of the ASP/WSL. There wasn’t a drop of out of place; it was big and critical. “Best ever” questions were asked, hyperbole headlined surf media, and after Gabriel Medina had beaten the King in the final, nobody talked about it. The discussion was strictly John and Kelly, Kelly and John. The heat came down to the fading minutes, and they tied: 19.77 to 19.77. They tongue punched their sisters; it was salty. And because Mr Slater found a perfect ten, he took the high-card win. At that point, Kelly was still winning, and although he hadn’t won a world title since 2011, the crowd wanted young John to be the victor. But, it’s been a while since Mr Slater’s won a CT event. And, it’s hard to figure out who we were rooting for.
Kelly also took the AI award honours, which judging by his reception, meant more to Kelly than another win – it’s his 55th.
The last time he stood atop the World Tour podium was the Pipe Masters in 2013. Kelly has the utmost respect for John. “John’s the most naturally gifted on tour,” said Kelly after his semifinal heat.
The action in the final did not disappoint. Halfway through the heat, Kelly had John combo’d. And, John had already put up an eight and a 7.23.
Kelly adapted to Chopes, and Chopes fit Kelly like black leather. He stayed in the right places at the right times. He put up an early nine, then airdropped out the sky for an impossible looking 9.17. John’s effort was valiant. He blew through multiple boards this event, and he looked deep, searching for more time beneath the curtain. Midway through the heat, John bounced off the reef and returned to the lineup. He later went to the medics to get his knee accessed. Then Kelly squeezed lime in John’s reef cuts and put up a 9.9. With three minutes remaining John needed two near perfect scores, and it was all the 11-time world champ.
“That’s going to the best win I’ve ever had!” said Kelly. “John and Gabriel are just monsters and John John is all of our favourite surfer.”
“For me peronally, I feel like I’ve battled through these winless two and a half years now,” said Kelly, trophy in hand. “I’m trying to get it back together and feel calm and decisive. This whole week, I had no problems at all and got back to the basics. It feels like I didn’t even think about it and all the sudden I was in first.”
“This year, I’ve had some bad heats, made some bad choices and haven’t surfed at the level I expect out of myself,” he continues. “I think I should be criticised for that. When you’re surfing on the world tour, you should be heavily scrutinised and should drive you to be better.
“I’m just trying to narrow the gap (for the title race)… I have 18,000 more points to catch up. Those first four events weren’t going my way. Now I feel relaxed and being further back in the ratings you don’t have the stress. I don’t have the stress that Wilko, Gabriel or John have. I’m not a world title threat at this time; I’d need to win two more events to feel like I’m getting there. I’m just gonna try to put in performances and work on feeling relaxed in heats.”
For a blow-by-blow recap of final’s day, head here.
1: Kelly Slater 19.67
2: John John Florence 15.23
SF 1: Kelly Slater 18.40 def. Adrian Buchan 16.10
SF 2: John John Florence 19.66 def. Gabriel Medina 19.23
QF 1: Adrian Buchan 18.16 def. Kolohe Andino 16.00
QF 2: Kelly Slater 19.27 def. Bruno Santos 17.43
QF 3: Gabriel Medina 17.90 def. Josh Kerr 13.40
QF 4: John John Florence 17.34 def. Julian Wilson 16.60
Heat 1: Adrian Buchan 16.77 def. Jordy Smith 12.60
Heat 2: Kelly Slater 20.00 def. Keanu Asing 14.70
Heat 3: Gabriel Medina 15.43 def. Jadson Andre 14.33
Heat 4: John John Florence 18.30 def. Joel Parkinson 15.90
The top five post-Tahiti:
1. John John Florence 39,900
2. Matt Wilkinson 36,000
3. Gabriel Medina 35,700
4. Adrian Buchan 26,200
5. Julian Wilson 25,200
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