The 11 times world surfing champion plans his next steps.
Will it be the last time we see Kelly Slater at the Corona J-Bay Open? Will it be the last time he competes here as a full time professional on tour? Many people think that this is the year he is going to call it quits, to finally retire after threatening to retire many times over the years. There are however, a few big question marks hanging over his hairless head.
Firstly, everyone knows full well that he is a pure competitive animal by nature. He is going to be lost of he doesn’t have some sort of competitive structure in his daily regime. There is no real Masters Tour as of yet, and he hasn’t made a transition to the Big Wave Tour in any way, so there is a possibility that, sitting at 7th spot on the Jeep Leaderboard, there is no real reason to step off the tour just yet.
Secondly, he has stated that he wants to compete in the Olympic Games in 2020 in Tokyo. In order to qualify he has to be of a certain standard, has to be competing within a certain level on the Tour, and has to compete in the ISA World Games either this year or next year. therefore he is going to be in the game for a little bit longer if he has his mind set on the Olympic Games.
Thirdly, he is invested in the current structure of the WSL and much of the interest in the world around professional surfing revolves around him. Without Slater’s presence, events and functions have a way less tangible feel to them, and interest wanes when he’s not around. It will be of the WSL’s best interests, as well as Kelly’s, to hang around a little bit longer.
Finally, there is the wave-pool future, or should we call it the Kelly Slater Wave Company future, of which he plays a massive part.
Although there will be no wave pool at the Tokyo Olympic Games, and at this stage there will also be no wave pool for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, there will be wave pools in the future of professional surfing, and the Freshwater Pro at Lemoore this year is just a start. The wave pool future is going to be a big part of professional surfing, and Kelly Slater is the man who brought you the greatest man-made wave pool in the world. With such a big stake, he’s not going anywhere.
On top of it all, everyone knows that Supertubes in JBay is one of his favourite waves of all time, and there is no way that we won’t be returning again and again to surf it. So even if he might not be competing, he might be in the commentating booth, or on the remote mic, walking around, watching the surf and talking surfing. Still very much in the game.
The Corona JBay Open is the next event on the World Surf League (WS) Championship Tour (CT) and runs from 9 – 22 July. Defending champ in the Men’s division is Filipe Toledo, and defending champion in the Women’s is Steph Gilmore.
Photo by WSL/ Poullenot.