For obvious reasons the story of the day is Kelly Slater's big win at the Rip Curl Pro. And it should be. He's hands-down, no bullshit, the best ever. Forget for just a second the drama of his last-minute, come-from-behind win against Bede Durbidge, in summary, yesterday he picked up his 36th WCT trophy, the second in as many tries this year, became only the forth person to win Bells three times, and in the process hasn't lost a heat this year. It has a Tiger Woods-esque ring to it—although Tiger's career winning percentage hovers around 70% while Kelly's is closer to 75%.
But as fans shouldn't we be concerned that in this, the year of the performer, Kelly, in a move reminiscent of 2006, has pretty much put an end to the season before it ever really started? Yeah, there's the whole argument that it's a long season and "we'll see what happens," but really, after surviving a final day at Bells that looked more like stormy Florida that a stop on the Dream Tour, do you honestly believe Kelly's not going to show up in the South Pacific?
Besides, who's going to stop him? He's handily throttled just about every world title contender this year. Poor Andy Irons, as his surfing continues to return to form, has had to go up against Kelly in both the quarterfinals at Snapper and Bells, and both times the result has been the same. Mick couldn't beat the champ at Snapper, and a clearly frustrated Taj Burrow was dispatched by him in the semifinals at Bells. Bede, the infinite dark-horse, is the only one who's come close, but even that didn't seem to really phase Kelly too much. It would seem the only thing that can really stop Kelly now is, well, Kelly.
When asked about his drive towards Number 9, Kelly, in his classic enigmatic way, answered, "It'd be silly to say it's not on the radar somewhere, but my whole approach and attitude at this point is just to have fun. There is a lot of hype with Dane and Jordy, and I don't think it is just hype—those guys are the real deal. I know it's got me excited to see what I can do on a wave and to push my equipment. The title thing is there to get, but at this point it's more about pushing my performance to see how much I can do on a wave."
If by "have fun" he means blow everyone out of the water, he must be having a ball. There's almost a month and a half before Tahiti rolls around, which gives Kelly plenty of time to sit down and work with Al on another batch of magic boards and contemplate the meaning of life, and for everybody else, it gives them a chance to go back and refigure their strategies, because up to this point they clearly aren't getting the job done.