“I actually relax the further I get into a contest. I really relax and trust my surfing because that’s what got me there, and then I just plan on figuring out how to win.”  

That was Kelly Slater sounding lethal as he explained his finals day approach. By the time he hit the beach, after dusting Jordy in a hard-fought duel, Kelly already had a strategy for how he would defeat Medina in the quarters and win the contest (which will almost certainly be decided tomorrow).    

“If you could pace a heat the way you want, I’d want to be ahead of him early. And then maybe let him sit with priority needing scores. He doesn’t like that. He likes to get busy… he likes to catch a lot of waves. I don’t think he likes to sit there and think about it … He tends to be much better when he’s active because just the law of averages if he gets enough waves he’s going to get high scores … I’ve already built my confidence back up.”

“If I can pass Medina I feel confident that I can win the contest…He’s been the highest scoring guy of the event. It’s hard to keep that up heat after heat when the waves aren’t amazing. ”

The morning’s sexy coils might have been replaced by rib-faced crumblers, but the depreciation in conditions did nothing to deter a rejuvenated Kelly Slater. 

When asked why he was able to do so well in the cruel seas, Slater was quick to respond.       

“I’m from Florida… I like waves like this,” he chuckled with a direct reference to the wind-whipped waves of his east coast youth.

Against Jordy Kelly had bee-bopped and jived around the bumpy lineup like he was performing some kind of ad-lib surfing Jazz. Reacting quickly 

to the shorter, broken up sections, Kelly was able to accelerate in and out of the junky sections rapidly, making him more engaging to watch alongside Jordy’s more loping approach. Asked if he’d thrived on a battle where Smith had pushed him all the way Kelly admitted that Jordy was his biggest surfing crush.    

Slater holds court after his win. Photo: bubbapics

“I was enjoying surfing against Jordy. We share a birthday. We’re definitely a couple of generations apart … to be honest with you he’s probably my favourite surfer on tour. I think he’s the most diverse and well-rounded and the most powerful guy who has the airs too. Him and Dane in my book are the real modern package of the big heavy carve and the huge air.”  

The signature controlled slash to tail-slide was on speed dial for Kelly and while we didn’t see him land any big airs it was in many ways the most inspired performance by Slater so far. Meanwhile Medina’s knee injury becomes apparent on certain sections and he will likely be restricted to face turns. A quarter is a keeper result and unless his competitive instinct goes into overdrive he won’t want to risk making his knee worse. That said, his flow through turns is probably only matched by Parko in this event and he still has enough strength to punch out of the lip. Kelly may go to the air to create a curious point of difference against his much younger rival. Win or lose, as Kelly points out, it’s his best start to a season in some time and he’s now well and truly in the world title game. 

“It’s kind of all a cherry on top right now. I did get myself into a world title talk at least the last couple of years from way behind after starting out so poorly.   

I left Australia with less than 5000 points and I think I almost have that now.”