By Jamie Tierney
Photos by Sherm
Kelly Slater delivered hands down one of the best performances of his career in winning his 10th ASP World Title and first Rip Curl Pro Search today. Pick your superlative – amazing, ridiculous, incredible, outrageous. He was all of them and more. How can a guy who is 38 years old be getting better? And what is he going to do next?
The past few days of sorrow and grief were tempered with joy and celebration today. On Kelly's last wave of his title clinching quarterfinal heat against Adriano De Souza (where his first two waves were a 9 and a 9.97) Jordy Smith recreated the famous 1995 Kelly/Rob high five by reaching out and slapping Kelly's hand as he rode past.
"I felt like Andy was with me today," Kelly said. "And I dedicate this to him.
After rolling past Taj Burrow in the semis and then unleashing a flurry of airs and crazy hacks in the final against Bede Durbidge, Kelly put an exclamation point on his day by walking away with the Search trophy in one arm and the world title one in the other.
"I feel relieved, honestly," says Kelly. "It's been the most stressful title I've ever had, because it's sort of an unknown place and you know at my age people say 'you shouldn't be doing this.' And all the young guys are getting better and it's a challenge to believe in yourself and not believe what other people tell you. I know how good Jordy, Dane, Mick, Taj and all those guys are, and it's a marathon, you know? It's not one wave, it's not one maneuver, it's not one contest. It's a year-long thing and I know how to focus and it came together and I'm just so relieved."
Here's what some other folks had to say:
"A long time ago Kelly asked himself the question if he had what it takes to win a world title and the answer was he had what it takes to win 10 world titles." Tom Curren
"It's been an emotional week to say the least. To sit here now and watch Kelly make history like this it's a beautiful thing and more than anything in the world he did it in Andy's memory. I'm sure Andy's looking down and he's happy and proud." Sal Masekela
"Kelly threw a 9 and a 9.8 off that bat in his quarterfinal and everyone was pretty much celebrating from there. Kelly's always put in the hard work and dedication throughout his career. Congratulations, buddy!" Mick Fanning
"It's rad that Kelly won his 10th. He was shredding today." Dane Reynolds
"Kelly's been on tour since I was born and now he's just won his tenth world title and I'm really stoked to be a part of it." Owen Wright
"I probably wouldn't have gotten four titles without Kelly to push me along. He was in my dreams the other night before I won." Stephanie Gilmore
"I'm very excited for Kelly and very proud of him – what a way to do it. As a brother I've always expected him to come through on days like today because he's so competitive and dependable." Stephen Slater
"Kelly's had an unrivalled career and it's something that will never surpassed in my lifetime or probably in my kids' lifetimes. To win 10 world titles is a milestone in itself, but I'd love to see him retire now. It would be the cherry on the top to retire after ten world titles." Martin Potter