Kelly Slater, with a tentative blessing from ASP tour officials and the WPS, has unleashed a revolutionary new format that is quite possibly the most refreshing idea to surface in professional surfing since Peter Drouyn bandied about the man-on-man. Slater's brainchild is unofficially called "overlapping" and the format involves two heats of man-on-man surfing in the water at the same time.
Here's how the 'overlap' format tentatively works according to the man himself, Kelly Slater, who spent a good while during Monday’s Quiksilver Pro webcast explaining it.
* Overlapping means two 2-man heats in the water at the same time.
* Heat one paddles out for a 40 minute heat. For the initial 20 minutes of heat one there are just two surfers in a man-on man format. There is no priority. The surfers in heat one can jockey and hassle (similar to a round one three man heat).
* After 20 minutes of heat number one, heat number two, the 'overlap heat', starts.
The new format may be given a chance in Top 45 competition as soon as stop number two during the Rip Curl Bells Beach event.
* Heat number one now takes 'priority status', meaning they get the pick of the litter wave wise, and normal priority rules apply just like in any man-on-man format.
* Heat number two is also surfing, catching waves, any waves, just not the waves that surfers in heat number one are surfing. Remember heat number one has priority.
* When heat number one's 40 minutes are over, heat two then takes 'priority status'.
* Heat number three starts with 'overlap status'. Again, surfers in heat number three are allowed to surf any waves they want, and they are scored, but heat three surfers cannot interfere with the 'priority status' heat, in this case, heat number two.
* The overlapping continues for the remainder of the event. Two heats in the water at all times. One heat has 'priority status'; one heat has 'overlap status'.
During a trial run yesterday at Snapper Rocks, during just two and half hours that I watched, the format ran through fourteen heats. That would have taken roughly five hours (running 20 minute heats) in the normal format. The overlap format allows you to run upwards of three rounds in one day. More surfing, more utilization of good swell, more rounds run and more…judges.
The new format may be given a chance in Top 45 competition as soon as stop number two at the Rip Curl Bells event. Whenever it debuts, one thing is for certain, the format is logistically a homerun, as well as a spectator no-brainer. It also opens up a plethora of other possibilities.
As eight time world champion Kelly Slater pointed out Monday, it is possible to run all 45 surfers through a round robin format. The surfer who remains undefeated is the "Grand Champion", a tournament that Slater referred to as the Sumo wrestling format.
Who would have thought that Kelly Slater's eight world titles might someday take a historical back seat to his latest revelation? Only history will tell, but my guess is that Kelly Slater has truly stamped his name on pro surfing in a manner that no one expected, and in a way that will raise his surfing legacy (if it's possible) to unimaginable heights.