Joe Surf: The saga of Kelly Slater's 11th win

Kelly Slater is sooooo good…

How good is he?

Slater is so good that he won the Assn. of Surfing Professionals World Tour championship twice this year. In fact, he won it twice in one week!

OK, that might not be so funny to those who work so hard to run the ASP World Tour, but unfortunately for them, it's true. Sort of.

Here's how it went down.

Slater and all the ASP pros went up to Ocean Beach in San Francisco last week for the 10th of the 11 events on the ASP World Tour. The way the ASP figured, Slater needed to win his first two heats, which would put him no lower than ninth place in the San Francisco contest, to clinch the points title for his unprecedented 11th world championship.

So, of course, Slater wins his first two heats last Tuesday, and the party begins. Slater is carried triumphantly from the water, the championship hats and T-shirts are given out and everybody loves Kelly — or "Ke11y," as they're calling him now.

The next day, Slater was on, perusing the comments section underneath the article proclaiming him world champ.

Slater comes across this comment posted by "Mark":

"It's fantastic without a doubt. Though I'm not sure how he could be crowned just yet. In the unlikely event Kelly finishes 9th in SF, then 13th or 25th at Pipe and Owen (Wright) wins both, they would both have 3 firsts, 2 seconds, 2 fifths, a 9th and a 13th to count. Wouldn't that be dead even? Not like it will happen, but what gives?"

Then on Thursday of last week, Slater tweets to his 120,351 followers: "Can you read this comment from Mark? The calculator at aspworldtour must be broken. I'm not the world champ yet!"

Initially, nobody seemed to take Slater seriously, causing him to tweet again:

"I'm not joking. I have not won the world title yet. I still have to win another heat! Give those shirts and hats back!"

Slater then got in touch with the folks at the ASP, and back to Twitter he went:

"(ASP World Tour) isn't gonna be happy with me or this but realized last night and confirmed just now with them. Only honest thing to do."

Someone at the ASP in charge of its Twitter account tweeted back to Slater: "We have plenty of things to be unhappy about. Honesty is not one of them."

Slater responded: "Thank you. We all make errors. Maybe I made one going public but on the bright side it will create bigger interest."

Though there was a lot of hoopla about the false proclamation, it was really inevitable that Slater would win the world title. It would have taken a collapse of epic proportions on Slater's part, as well as consecutive first-place finishes at San Francisco and Pipeline by Owen Wright, just to force a tie. Then they would have had a surf-off to declare a champion.

But Slater quickly did his part to eliminate the drama, clinching a fifth place in San Francisco by winning his next two heats. And on Sunday, Slater was finally — officially — the world champion.

"Well...those hats and shirts are legal now," Slater tweeted. "Thanks everybody. As my dad used to say...stoke-a-boca. Not sure what that means."

Slater seemed to unaffected by all the commotion when asked about it: "Not even upset. If it had been known prior, we'd be right where we are. Thanks."

The ASP, however, was a little more sensitive to the issue. Steve Shearer, writing for, received this email from Brodie Carr, the chief executive of the ASP World Tour:

"ASP is in the process of migrating its data and rankings systems to an automated server. This server, when tabulating the ASP World Title Rankings scenarios, is programmed to break ties based on seed points. When we ran the scenarios on best nine results, Kelly and Owen tied. The server then ran the tabulation off of best eight results, but gave the tie-break to Kelly as he had more base seed points than Owen. Our scenarios were then run off this formula. Unfortunately, our officials didn't track this aberration and we ended up in this situation. At the end of the day, this is our mistake and we are responsible.

"We have updated our timeline for completion to this automated rankings system. Once fully operational, this will take out the potential for human error.

"We cannot reverse the outcome of what has happened the last several days. For this, we apologize to our fans, event supporters and surfers. They deserve better. They will receive better."

It's unfortunate that this sort of distraction seemed to take away from the focus on Slater's incredible accomplishment. Even Slater himself must be impressed, based on a quotation he made in an interview with Australia's Surfing Life magazine in 1998:

"You only have a short career as a surfer. It's not like you get 20 years," said Slater, who won his first ASP World Title 19 years ago in 1992.

Maybe the best way to describe what Slater has done is summed up by one commentator on "Jordan (6) + Kobe (5) = Slater (11)."

JOE HAAKENSON is an Orange County-based sports writer and editor. He may be reached at

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