After three equal 17ths in the first three events, the king is back. Kelly Slater has again struck gold in the fourth event of the year on the ASP World tour. The Catarina pro, in Brazil, saw a full array of highly contested conditions ranging from head-high to over-head surf and perhaps a little less ideal on the final day.
That saw ratings leader Joel Parkinson slip up and fall in the semi finals, leaving the door wide open for the most decorated surfer of all time to swoop in and take his first win of the year, defeating local hero and current No. 2-rated surfer Adriano de Souza in the finals. De Souza had defeated Parkinson in the semis, while Slater defeated current No. 3-rated surfer and close friend CJ Hobgood in the other semi final.
As the tour now heads to South Africa and perhaps the world’s most perfect wave in Jeffery’s Bay, Slater looks poised to follow up his first win with another. Having won J-Bay four times in ’96, ’03, ’05 and ’08, and back on a three fin, even a non-betting guy like me would bet the house on Slater.
Beginning this year’s tour on funky self-shaped boards and having the worst slump of his career in a string of equal 17th place finishes, the king knows the time is now and it’s the perfect stretch on tour for him to continue his march toward a 10th world title.
With Joel Parkinson winning the first two events of the year, he is the current ratings leader and one time J-Bay event winner as a teenage wild card back in 1999. He certainly has the talent to win again out here.
CJ Hobgood is a great example of consistency this year, and I think he will at least equal last year’s quarterfinal finish. Mick Fanning deserves mention as well.
But two sleepers to keep an eye on are Dane Reynolds and local upstart Jordy Smith. But in the end it will be the king — because he’s back.
My only question: When did Slater ever leave?
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