Stab Magazine | Why I think Kelly Slater will win the 2016 World Title
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Why I think Kelly Slater will win the 2016 World Title

Words by Jake Howard  Kelly Slater was an innocent 14-year-old when he blew up at Canaveral Pier and famously turned down the prize money. Today he’s 44, a titan of industry, the 11-time world champ and the senior most veteran on tour. (Note: 2016 rookie Kanoa Igarashi was born the same year Kelly won his fifth […]

news // Mar 8, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Words by Jake Howard 

Kelly Slater was an innocent 14-year-old when he blew up at Canaveral Pier and famously turned down the prize money. Today he’s 44, a titan of industry, the 11-time world champ and the senior most veteran on tour. (Note: 2016 rookie Kanoa Igarashi was born the same year Kelly won his fifth title in ’97.) And as far as the cosmos can tell, the champ’s made no indications that he’s slowing down. In fact, he’s enjoying a renaissance… again.

Kelly’s win at the Volcom Pipe Pro was his first WSL victory in exactly 24 months. Beating the likes of Jamie O’Brien and Bruce Irons in, what he called “perfect southeast trades and big bombing surf,” it was enough to prime Kelly’s high-octane pump. He then went and finished fifth in the Eddie. So the question begs, could a big result at the upcoming Quik Pro be far behind? And then, of course, one has to wonder, could a run at that elusive 12th world title be on tap in 2016?

How many 44 year olds get this much pop? Photo: Trevor Moran

Here’s why Kelly Slater will win the world title in 2016:
The recent competitive success has rejuvenated him. Prior to his Pipe win he was suffering through the longest winless streak in his pro career, and sort of like Tiger Woods, people started wondering if they’d ever see him top a podium again. As guys like John John Florence and Gabriel Medina ascended to center stage, Kelly appeared somewhat disinterested and removed from the WSL tour that he helped create. If that was the case, he’s fully reengaged now.

Back when Slates got three ten point rides at Cloudbreak, circa ’13. Photo: Robertson

Throughout his career Kelly’s made it a habit of destroying whole generations of surfers. When he first got on tour he made short work of Martin Potter, Tom Curren and crew. Throughout the ‘90’s he crushed peers Shane Dorian, Ross Williams and Rob Machado. Aussies, Shane Powell and Shane Herring had a go at him, and it didn’t go well. Then came Andy Irons, Joel Parkinson and Mick Fanning. They all won titles under his watch, but Kelly was always the big winner. And just think how he’s mercilessly toyed with poor Taj Burrow like an alley cat amusing himself with a defenseless mouse. Now he’s going toe to toe with John John, Medina, Filipe Toledo and generation now. This year will be Kelly’s 23rd on tour—the same number of years John John’s been on this earth. He’d love nothing more than to end his storied career with one more statement-making hammer drop.

Historically, Kelly’s always been at his best when his personal life is in order. Fiercely private about his affairs, from the outside looking in he’s in a good place. From his girlfriend Kalani Miller to his friends and family around the world, he’s got an amazing support crew around him. And when it comes to a source of inspiration, Kelly was extremely close to longtime friend Brock Little, and being in Hawaii with him at the end of his days, it makes sense he would carry the memory of his fallen friend with him.

Outside the ropes, Kelly’s been able to tick a lot of boxes in the last couple of years. The separation from Quik is well in the rearview mirror. Eco-happy OuterKnown is up and rolling. His 10-year quest to create the world’s best artificial wave culminated in a thunder-stealing announcement after Adriano de Souza won the title last year. Also, the acquisition of Firewire and subsequent launch of Slater Designs is now behind him. Conceivably his equipment is well honed and he’s very happy with the boards that are under his feet. All of that makes for a lot of distractions if one’s trying to contend for a world title, but now that the heavy lifting is done for Kelly he can set his laser focus on obtaining the one prize that’s evaded him in recent years—a 12th title.

Kelly would be in exceptional shape for a 20-year-old, the fact that he’s 44 and still strong and flexible is a testament to all the chia seeds and organic spinach he eats. Being freakishly flexible isn’t easy the older one gets, but whatever he’s doing in his closely guarded training regimen, it’s working.

Ultimately, it’s hard to imagine Kelly using 2016 as a chance to say goodbye before he sails off into the sunset a la Kobe Bryant’s NBA victory lap this year. Nah, he’s too competitive. There are too many of the pieces for success in place to ignore the signs. He wants another title bad—even if he won’t say it. If Kelly’s got a jersey on (and even if he doesn’t), he’s in it to win.

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