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SURFING SOAPBOX: All eyes now on Slater

In the epic “Sunshine Showdown” that took place Jan. 22, 1973, in Kingston, Jamaica, it was a 37-0 George Foreman knocking down a then-29-0 Joe Frazier six times in two rounds to win the championship by knockout in one of boxing’s biggest upsets.

It was during HBO Boxing’s first broadcast when the call was made by Howard Cosell that would soon be heard around the world, becoming one of the most memorable in all of sports.

In the world of professional surfing, the call this year has been “Down goes Slater” — as in Kelly Slater, the most decorated surfer of all time. He has failed to advance from a single heat this year, earning himself three consecutive first-round defeats and placing equal 17th in each of them. Slater now sits in a lonely 25th in the world rankings after blazing through last year’s tour, winning an unprecedented ninth world tour and posting the single most successful season of any professional surfer to date.

My, how quickly things change in a year.

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Winning the third event of the year, the Billabong Pro held in Tahiti, was none other than Californian pro Bobby Martinez, who defeated veteran Australian surfer Taj Burrow. With Mick Campbell having his best result in years along with Aritz Aranburu, who was the Cinderella story of this event, both surfers finished in equal third by making the semifinals.

It was Aranburu who served up Slater’s beating and continued his strong showing all the way to his best result as a pro.

With the tour heading to Brazil and seven events left on this tour, all eyes will surely be placed on Slater’s shoulders to see how he responds and if he does, in fact, respond.

Or will he just take his lumps and walk off into the sunset?

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My money is on him responding with a couple of wins.


JAMES PRIBRAM is a Laguna Beach native, professional surfer and John Kelly Environmental Award winner. His websites include AlohaSchoolofSurfing and ECOWarrior Surf.com. He can be reached at Jamo@Aloha SchoolofSurfing.com.


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