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Kelly Slater Is Not Human

Surfline - “I’m here by myself crying.”

About a minute and a half into Kelly’s victory speech yesterday after winning the Billabong Pro Pipeline, the above text arrived from a friend of mine.

My friend is in his mid-60s. He’s been surfing longer than Kelly’s been alive — a pretty huge call by itself.

And here he was, sitting at home, by himself, listening to Kelly, and crying.

Many say that surfing’s not a competitive sport. Well, what an irony then, that surfing has somehow produced the greatest competitive sportsperson of all time.

Perhaps in an effort to degrade his achievements, perhaps because they can’t quite believe he exists, people talk the most amazing nonsense about the guy. Just this past two weeks, he’s been called a psychopath, a narcissist, an incorrigible attention seeker who was sure to make this contest all about himself, and fat.

Most wins require some fortune, and fortune favored him, for sure. Against Barron Mamiya, Kelly was cooked and he knew it, splashing water the way he and a lot of others do when they’re on the wrong side of priority. The wave that arrived seconds before the finish of that heat had nothing to do with some weird conjuring magic, indeed by the standards of that day it was kinda overdue. That was Kelly’s fortune — that Barron had no chance to reply.

“He is the greatest athlete of all time.”

That bold proclamation came from Makua Rothman, one of Hawaii’s most hard-core surfers. 

That title gets thrown around a lot regarding another guy in his 40s who routinely whips the asses of guys twice his age- Tom Brady. 

And I am no surf expert whatsoever, but I don't think it takes one to realize just how incredible Kelly Slater's greatness truly is.

The guy is knocking on 50's door and still out there competing at the TOP level in one of the most grueling and demanding sports in the world.

This isn't white haired Gordie Howe out there hanging around so he can say he played with his grandson. This is a guy taking on 50 foot waves at Mavericks and Waimea Bay while the rest of the pack watches.

And he's not just winning either. He's doing it in dramatic, Brady-esque fashion.

Time was running out in his man-on-man quarterfinal against Barron Mamiya, a 22-year-old sensation looking very much like the future. Pipeline was in harrowing, vintage form, around 15 feet on the face, breaking in shallow water above a reef that has claimed many lives over the years. With about a minute left, little promise on the horizon and Slater needing a 7.18 score to prevail, spectators on the beach prepared to give Mamiya a hero’s welcome.

But a wave did come. There were four seconds remaining when Slater stroked into it, riding backside down the elevator-steep drop and into a massive cavern. He was locked inside the beast when the heat-ending horn went off — and he came flying out unscathed, arms upraised in triumph. The judges handed him a 9.23, highest score of the day.

Are you kidding me? 

I read Slater's book Pipe Dreams (and Laird Hamilton's Force of Nature) and they not only opened my eyes to surfing and caused me to respect the hell out of it, but showed me that these two guys could have been dominant in whatever field it was they decided to. Because their dedication and self-discipline is not of this world. They have literally devoted their entire life to the sport. That's not hyperbole. They live, eat, and breathe surfing. Year-round, every day. It's insane. And each one of them has done it with class.

There's speculation that he might call it a career now that he's proved everything there is to prove to everybody, including himself. 

If he does, or doesn't hang it up, there is no denying he is one of the biggest badasses of all time.