Days after the passing of Andy Irons, Kelly Slater did what everyone expected he would do when the world title race came down to he and Jordy Smith – he went superhuman and locked down No. 10.
Upon emerging from the surf, he was boosted onto the shoulders of the awaiting entourage and shuttled through the packed-beach crowd to the podium. I'm not certain when the first tears came, but the early interviews showed Slater puffy-eyed and glazed. An emotional week, to say the least.
As I mentioned in the previous post, when AI was in his competitive prime, he and Slater were the closest thing to enemies that existed on Tour in the last two decades. They engaged in arguments and fights on various occasions, mostly stemming from the heated rivalry. But they'd made amends in recent years, even becoming friends. Which is why, in his first interviews post-victory, Slater dedicated the win to Andy Irons.
Beyond the touching condolences and vulnerable moment, Kelly Slater managed to package 20 years of competition and personal growth into the last months of the pursuit for 10. Slater has had a bit of a checkered past – being a bit over-confident early on, the Baywatch era, dating Pamela Anderson, being the loner on Tour – but nothing like a Tiger Woods (ultra-adultery), Barry Bonds (cheating/PEDs), Lance Armstrong (it's only a matter of time before the truth comes out) or even Michael Jordan (gambling, womanizing). Slater has long been the toughest and smartest competitor, articulate and sometimes puzzling in interviews, respectable toward his fans, innovative with his surfing, proof that age doesn't much matter – and an inspiration to two decades of surfers, both young and old.
In the following interview, from ESPN, you get a glimpse of the psyche of Kelly Slater. It's been one hell of a run from surfing's greatest athlete. And it may not yet be over.