Kelly Slater wins his round 1 heat

Can Kelly Slater win a 10th world title on a wave tailor made for surfers half his age?

Words by Jamie Tierney
Photos by Sherm

That's the question at the 2010 Rip Curl Search in Puerto Rico. Middles, a gnarly little reef, on PR's north shore is a Modern Collective wave – chunky, rampy and delightfully onshore. It looks similar to the right in Reunion Island where Jordy, in the world of Lewis Samuels "redefined modern performance surfing." Kelly, after seeing the movie said he wanted to go there for a month to learn how to do airs like that. He hasn't made it there yet, but judging from the massive full rotation alley oop he pulled in the semis at the last event in Portugal, the old dog's got no problems learning some new tricks.

No one pulled off anything super crazy in a largely predictable day one but the potential is so there. Jordy, showing no ill effects from a rolled ankle last week, had a mind-blowing freesurf last night and went for a giant air this morning in his heat, but didn't make it. He got past local Dylan Graves in a close heat, while Kelly, surfing fast, loose and on-edge, threw down the highest score of the round in his win.

Dane didn't pull off any huge airs either but was blown away by the performance potential of the spot in his first surf at Middles. "It's really powerful," said Dane. "It's really punchy and fast and slopey. It's so much fun. It's a nice crumbly lip for hitting it. I had a good time out there."

1989 Martin Potter, who's been hanging with Kelly for the last few events on his run for #10, had this to say: "It's a dangerous event. The likes of Dane and Jordy and Owen can really shine here but watching Kelly's heat this morning – he's on f—king fire. Jordy's given him a little bit of a run but I think the pressure's going to get to Jordy. Kelly's been here before so he knows what to do."

What Kelly needs to do is make the semi finals here. If he does that, even if Jordy wins the contest, Kelly still clinches 10. No one else even has a chance. Both are now in Round 3. Today was a nice little warm up. From now on every heat matters.