I'm at a loss for words trying to express all the events, and resulting emotions that are going through my head right now. After a week of highs and lows like nothing I've ever had to process in my life, I find myself alone for the first time after another marathon day, searching for a way to honor the memory of one of my best friends, Andy Irons, and celebrate the triumph of another close friend, Kelly Slater.
During the moment of silence for Andy before the final, I shed a tear as I closed my eyes and saw Andy's face. An hour later when I came out of the commentary booth—directly into a moment of elation with Kelly—I shed tears of joy.
Kelly battled a similar sea of emotions today. Andy and Kelly had become close in recent years, and their link in surfing history is even closer. During what was the crowning achievement of Kelly's career he dedicated his 10th World Title to Andy and acknowledged that he wouldn't have been competing long enough to get a 10th title if it wasn't for Andy. He said all of this through glassy eyes.
Despite everything going on, we still had a contest to finish and a Rip Curl Pro Search champion to crown. Taj vs Dane was the most anticipated heat of the day and it didn't disappoint. Both surfers performed exceptionally, but it was Taj's superior wave choice and resulting tuberides, one even scoring a perfect 10, that sent Dane out of the competition, still waiting for his first World Tour win.
In the semi-finals Taj faced newly crowned 10-time world champ Kelly Slater. This heat saw a flurry of exciting surfing and big scores as Taj presented Kelly his only serious challenge today. If it wasn't for two blown air-reverses near the end of the heat, Taj would've won. But as we've grown accustomed to seeing throughout the years, Kelly elevated his performance with every heat while his competitors seemed to peak too early or crack under pressure.
In the final up against new dad and rock-solid performer Bede Durbidge, Kelly found a clean, lined up insider that he was able to connect three critical maneuvers on. The last being a no-handed nearly full-rotation air-reverse that scored a perfect 10. Combined with multiple other dynamic rides, Kelly cruised to the victory and yet another celebration waiting for him on the beach.
This week will forever be remembered in the history of surfing for two vastly different reasons—Andy's untimely passing, and Kelly's record achievements. But together, the two most influential surfers of our time made us all aware of how fragile life can be and how important it is to celebrate every moment of joy we experience in our days.