SLATER WINS AN UNPRECEDENTED SEVENTH FOSTERS ASP MENS WORLD TOUR CROWN DURING
[i]Tuesday 8 November,
Photo courtesy of www.aspworldtour.com
Spectators on the beach and those watching the live webcast from the Nova Schin Festival presented by Billabong witnessed one of the most phenomenal acts in surfing and sporting history today when Kelly Slater from Cocoa Beach, Florida, USA claimed an incredible seventh Fosters ASP Mens World Tour crown.
[/i]Despite being eliminated in round four of todays event, by stable-mate Travis Logie (ZAF), all things fell into place for Slater when his only rival for the title, Andy Irons (HAW) was eliminated by Nathan Hedge (AUS) in the quarter finals. In order to keep the title race alive going into Hawaii with Slaters early elimination Irons had to finish at least third in this event.
After a shaky start to the Nova Schin Festival, Slater looked to be back to his best in round three where he defeated wildcard Guilherme Ferriera (BRA) but in the heat against Logie he stalled, falling on a few occasions and perhaps making some wrong decisions regarding wave choice.
After the heat he admitted being an emotional ball of knots as he felt huge disappointment in himself plus an overwhelming anxiousness. He was about to jump into a car and leave the beach as he couldnt bear to watch how the Irons/Hedge affair would unfold.
Good friend CJ Hobgood (USA) then talked Slater into returning to watch and with all eyes upon the soon to be champion he joked and looked at ease for the masses of cameras focussed on him recording his reaction.
In the dying stages of the Irons/Hedge encounter he zipped his jacket over his head as the anticipation became unbearable. But as soon as it was confirmed that Irons was eliminated Slater threw his arms in the air and cheered long and hard in tune with the massive crowd who were present to support him.
It was a fantastic year for the 33-year-old as after getting off to a slow start on the first two events on this years calendar, he came back with a victory in Tahiti scoring the first perfect 20 out of 20 total in the final.
He claimed that it took him until that victory to revamp his title ambition after narrowly losing his crown in 2003 when Irons came from behind in the last event of the tour at Pipeline.
In 2005 he has claimed four event victories in Tahiti, Fiji, California and South Africa. His battles with Irons in two finals in Jeffreys Bay where Slater was victor and in Japan where Irons won the silverware have been noted as being some of the best surfing finals of all time.
Slater was in the box seat in the last event in France and could have potentially wrapped up the title there. But Irons win in that event held off Slaters celebrations until today here in Brazil.
In winning his seventh Fosters ASP Mens World Tour crown Slater has broken his own record of six titles.
He won his first title here in Brazil at Rio de Janeiro in 1992. He then lost the following year to Derek Ho (HAW) but reclaimed his crown in 1994 and held onto it with a firm grip until 1998 seven years ago.
Slater left the tour before the start of the 1999 season to go into semi-retirement until 2001. He is the only surfer in the history of the sport who did not have to return to the World Championship Tour through qualification on the second tier World Qualifying Series. Each tour event granted him a wildcard so he could return in 2001.
Slater was the youngest to claim the title at 20 years of age and is now the oldest champion at 33 years of age. He takes the oldest record from Mark Occhilupo (AUS) who also claimed a title in 1999 when he was also 33. He beats Occhilupo because he was born in the month of February. Occhilupo was born in June.
Kelly Slater is the highest prizemoney winner in the history of the sport now having amassed an amazing $US1,303,105.
The only record Slater is yet to smash is the most number of competition victories held by Tom Curren (USA). Curren has 33 event victories while Slater has 31.
The following quotes were recorded directly after he claimed his crown.
His immediate reaction:
Im feeling pretty good. Ive just been through a complete emotional roller coaster from being really sad thinking of my dad [who passed away in 2002] to being really happy after talking to my family and just thinking about the whole big thing. I really need a little time alone just to sit and dwell on everything I think. Im just super relieved its over. It was an amazing year. Andy didnt really get in gear until the end of the year and I knew at some point he was going to make a rush and really didnt expect him to go out early here. I thought he was going to win. Im feeling for Andy at the moment.
On returning to compete on the Fosters ASP Mens World Tour in 2006:
I probably wont make that decision until Bells in April next year. I will definitely surf the first event of the year on the Gold Coast no matter what. As to whether I continue and surf all the events If I surf Bells, if I go to Tahiti and Fiji it is very likely that I will continue as I love those events and won last year. I just dont know at this point. I will see when I get there. Im not too worried about that now.
On his feelings after his defeat to Travis Logie in the Nova Schin Festival Brazil:
I was going to leave the beach. We were packing the car and my friends were putting the boards on the roof. Then CJ Hobgood looked at me and said, You know what? It is better that this is happening, this should go to Hawaii. It is better for surfing. Its better for everyone to see it come down to the last event it just makes sense. I instantly relaxed about it. I thought to myself that I should stick around to watch Nathan and Andys heat and if I win today I should be at the beach. It was the right thing. I had a really good feeling. Then Nathan Hedge looked at me and said, I am going to win this heat, its going to end today. I thought to myself, theres a man with confidence, and I was pumped up and totally relaxed at the same time. Then he went out and did his thing and beat Andy. Hedgey and I need to sit down and have a talk. [laughs] He thought I was hating him these past four months and he goes to me, Were friends again now arent we?
On his head space:
I have to sit back and dwell on it all for a while. Its all hit me right now. I need to assess how I feel as a person as opposed to just winning. Prior to today I wasnt just thinking about the next contest, I was thinking about the rest of my life and where I can improve in other parts of it. It all has me pumped up and humbled all at the same time. In some ways I just want to build a house, surf a lot, play golf, travel, play music and have more time for my personal life. That may happen, that might be my next year.
On him smashing records:
I dont know about the records just yet. Again I need time to sit back and think about things. I would love to win Pipe and finish off on a win after having such a great year. Potentially I can still catch Tom Currens record for event victories next year if that is the case. I didnt win a whole event during last year and this year I came up and won four. I could easily go next year and not win one again or I could win a few so we will see how my mind is and how determined I am on tour next year.
On the anxiety he felt at the end of the Irons/Hedge heat that resulted in his zipping up his jacket and hiding:
I was pretending I was playing poker and I didnt want anyone to see my poker face. I was hiding! Trying to contain the excitement, the nervousness the anxiety!
On 2005 being the best year of his life:
In a lot of ways I feel like my life is getting better and this just really capped off the back half of my career in a great way.