Not only has Kelly Slater reiterated his position as World #1 but has well and truly stamped himself with the mantle of “Greatest Surfer of all Time” by securing his 8th World Crown. And he seemingly did it with such ease, clinching with his 8th effort on the 2006 Foster’s Men’s World Championship Tour.
The most relevant sign of dominance is that in 06 the best 8 WCT results count toward year end rankings and Kelly’s runner-up position in the Billabong Pro Mundaka posted his threshold result on the tour. He missed Fiji, where he was defending champion, so it was only after Mundaka that Kelly had a full book of 8 results, whereas Taj, Andy, Mick and Joel all had a full book of 9 results, so were already in the process of eliminating their lowest result to establish true adjusted ratings.
This stat underlines in red the perfect season Kelly had. Of the eight events contested he was carrying two 1sts, two 2nds, three 3rds and a low of 5th. He was awarded equal 33rd points when missing Fiji through injury, a courtesy shown to every injury no-show, but this was never coming into calculations. The bottom line is that 8 of 11 results would be calculated to determine the World Champion, Kelly got the job done with the minimum required event rate.
Not that this has a reflection on the effort put in by this most competitive of all surfing animals. From the get-go he had the contest head on, he turned up on the Gold Coast very relaxed, uncommitted to a full tour year, he relieved himself of “defending World Champ” pressure by making it clear he wasn’t even committed to going to Bells. He was awarded the ASP Foster’s Men’s World Championship at the ASP Banquet, spent some quality time with his mum, who traveled to the Goldy to be part of Kelly’s historic 7th Title acceptance, then rolled with the Quiksilver Pro as it moved around to Duranbah post cyclone.
His victory over Taj Burrow, who had dedicated 06 to a World Title tilt, had all the hallmarks of a champion in his comfort zone. And I think that played a huge part in Kelly’s decision to forge ahead with the season. You see, Kelly had to work very hard to get himself back in “the zone”, a space he had a total mortgage on during his 90’s dominance, where he snared 6 ASP World Titles. He came back, with a great deal of fanfare I might add, in 2002, at a time where the new power of Andy Irons had moved into the rarified air space that comes with being #1.
Kelly contended in 2003, a famous year of rivalry with Andy ensued, with both winning like five events each, the Title coming down in that unforgettably gut wrenching Pipe Final where Kelly surfed the rights at Ehukai and Andy scored the winning waves at Backdoor. That set up another showdown, it didn’t come in 04, Kelly got tangled up on the wrong side of too many Quarter Finals and Andy clinched about as early as Kelly did this year. But it certainly did last year, in what presented itself as the surfing version of “The hare and the tortoise”, Kelly tearing out to a commanding lead, Andy reeling him back in with a brilliant mid season purple patch, Kelly clinching in Brazil, Andy winning Pipe to prove he wasn’t going anywhere.
The phenomenal pace that Kelly set this year created the most complete tour campaign in living memory. The foundation for Title #8 was emphatically established by winning the first two events. The Rip Curl Pro Bells win was ominous, Kelly building momentum as he cut a swathe through the field, still looking very solid in the Final against the young legs of Joel Parkinson who, like Kelly, was looking for his second Bell. Then at his pet event, the Billabong Pro Teahupoo, where he has triumphed on three occasions, Kelly kept the winning streak alive, moving to 16-0 before taking himself out on a violent floater attempt that resulted in the board nailing him in the ribs.
He resumed in Mexico, recording his season low =5th, and that was the last time he missed the podium, going 3rd, 2nd, 3rd, 2nd through J/Bay, Trestles, Hossegor, Mundaka. In what has to be one of the highest point yields in history Kelly, over his eight events, averaged a whopping 978 points per event. Now there is 1032 for a WCT 2nd, 876 for a 3rd place finish, so over eight events Kelly averaged just under a 2nd place in every single event. Now that is definitely a World Title pace, will have to check back to the best of Curren, Carroll, MR and Pottz and Andy, but I don’t recall a higher average. When one considers the fact that he missed an entire event and there are still two to go, this win may have even taken him by surprise.