Kelly Slater (USA), 38, enhanced his reputation as the greatest surfer of all time when he clinched an historic 10th ASP World surfing title in Puerto Rico last week and then went on to win the Rip Curl Pro Search, his 45th career elite level event victory.
In as comprehensive and dominant a performance as the sporting world has ever borne witness to, Slater secured the ASP World Title by defeating Adriano de Souza (BRA) with two near-perfect scores in their quarterfinal clash and amassing sufficient rankings points to ensure that current World No.2, South African Jordy Smith, could not overtake him in the 2010 ASP World Title Race.
“The wave that did it for me was that first one in the quarterfinal against Adriano (de Souza),” Slater explained. “That was the heat I needed to win to get the title, and after that first wave, I felt this wave of relief. I still had to win the heat, but I was so relaxed and everything just started going my way. I was in the best possible headspace I could have been in for the rest of the day. This is a dream.”
Despite the emotional and dramatic celebrations after the momentous achievement, Slater regained his focus to overcome Taj Burrow (AUS) in their semifinal encounter before posting another stellar performance against Bede Durbidge (AUS) in the final, posting a perfect 10 point ride that left his opponent in a combination situation and needing to improve on both his scores.
“This is the only event close to my home and I spent a lot of time in Puerto Rico when I was a kid,” Slater said on the podium. “It was a special time. To be close to Florida and to win the 10th and get that wave (the perfect 10) in the final, there is nothing else I could add to it.”
The 38 year-old Floridian, who won his first professional event in 1990 and annexed the first of his ASP World Titles in 1992, owns virtually every record in the sport including being both the youngest (19 years) and oldest (38) ASP World Champion, most event victories, highest prize-money and dozens more.
He set yet another milestone yesterday when he earned the biggest single payday in surfing history, collecting US $175 000 (approx. R1.2 million) with $75 000 coming from Rip Curl for the event victory and $100 000 from the ASP for the World Title.
Jordy Smith (Durban), 22, who went into Puerto Rico, the penultimate event on the 2010 ASP World Tour, as the only surfer who could take the title race to the final event in Hawaii next month, ultimately finished fifth in the Rip Curl Pro Search to retain his No. 2 spot in the rankings.
In a moving tribute between the king and the rising star, Smith and Slater exchanged high-fives as Smith was in the water waiting to start his quarterfinal against Michel Bourez (PYF) and Slater rode past on a wave while clinching the crown against de Souza.
Highlights of all the action from the Rip Curl Pro Search Puerto Rico can be found at http://live.ripcurl.com
The ASP World Tour now moves to Hawaii for the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing comprising Prime rated events at Haleiwa and Sunset Beach before the final ASP World Title Race event of the year, the Billabong Pipeline Masters, which runs from December 8-20.