It's one or the other.
Does Kelly Slater Have A Chance Against Filipe Toledo Today?
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“Hopefully, it’s six foot and barreling.”
That was Kelly Slater's take on his upcoming heat with Filipe Toledo, in the quarterfinals of the Corona Bali Protected. Luckily for Kelly, the last day of the waiting period looks to be the best day of the waiting period, at least swell-wise.
Surfline predicts 6-8’ faces with favorable winds and tides throughout the day, meaning, hopefully: barrels. Yes, the ultimate equalizer in the case of the GOAT vs the human joystick.
“I think he’s probably the best small wave surfer that’s ever lived,” said Slater, knowing damn well the advantage Toledo has over his competitors in smaller surf. But, does a new, larger swell plus the potential of tubes give Slater the edge or just a fighting chance?
According to the WSL’s fan vote, 58% of people with access to a computer and a general interest in competitive surfing have chosen Toledo to edge out Slater, who received 42% of the vote (that’s how math works). The vote reveals a much closer margin than many would expect for the event favorite. Are the numbers telling us something, or is it just the same blind faith in the 11-time World Champ that we see at every event?
At the current event, Filipe's heat average is 15.2 while Slater's lingers in the high-12s. Nearly a three point disparity does not look good for the K-Slates.
Also worth noting is Filipe's three wins (technically two, because Slater didn't surf one of the heats due to injury) to Slater's one in their career head-to-head heats, which shows an interesting trend between the two: Filipe wins when it's at a performance venue (Trestles + France) while Slater wins in tubes (Pipeline).
While Kelly may downplay Filipe’s aptitude in bigger, barreling waves, Toledo has proven to be deadly in any conditions up to double overhead. Some wonder if Slater’s comments are part of his signature psychological warfare tactics. Kelly is a master in the art of war. Kind of like the time he whispered "I love you, man" in the late great Andy Irons' ear before a Pipe final 16 years ago.
If it comes down to tubes, Slater’s veteran experience has to count for something. We saw what happened last year at Pipe, the last time the two met in a man-on-man heat. It was the third round at the Pipe Masters, and the then 46-year-old kept busy, scraping into 10 waves compared to Filipe's four and by the end of the heat, little Filly found himself in a combo situation. Kelly would go on to lose in the semis to Julian Wilson.
What do you think? Does larger surf give Kelly the upper hand, or is Filipe too sharp and too talented to lose?