In the third round of the Billabong Pipe Masters, Kelly Slater performed some strange sort of wizardry. You probably saw it already, but just in case your head is buried in the sand, here it is again in all its glory:
“Well, that was interesting,” Slater wrote on Instagram afterwards. “I thought I just fell straight onto my belly and bodyboarded out. Didn’t realize I had to grab for it!”
But, as is so often the case in a world dominated by 10-second highlight clips, there was a lot more magic in the air during that heat. The whole heat, in fact, was magic. If Kelly’s escape from the tube was the tree, we missed the forest.
Kelly is a showman. His actions are calculated, his announcements strategic. His surfing is still up there with the best on earth—but there’s just something different about him. Somehow, after all these decades and all those world titles, the old GOAT is still managing to wow the spectator. One would think by now that the hat would be empty of rabbits, but somehow, he keeps pulling more out. In his heat against poor Filipe, Slater was absolutely on fire, showing his mastery of one of the most difficult lineups on earth.
After Slater knocked Toledo out of the title running, he took to social media to gush about Filipe’s prowess. “I just want to say congrats on an incredible year and for pushing surfing to where it’s at, @filipetoledo,” he wrote. “If anyone on tour is a magician, this guy is. He’s probably the fastest surfer to ever live and he’s just getting better which is a real problem for anyone trying to win titles for the next 20 years. He’s humble, talented, and wants to be the best. I’ve enjoyed watching this guy do the impossible since he seemingly came out of nowhere to smoke the world’s best juniors at Huntington when he was 15 or 16 years old. I’m a fan. Thanks for the battle yesterday. I feel your pain with the loss of a year-long battle, but I know you’ll be in that battle and have it go your way many more times. It was an honor surfing with you yesterday.”
Strategic announcements and calculated actions aside, Kelly Slater surfed like a man possessed. He pulled into closeouts and foam pits and waves that anyone else wouldn’t even sniff. He surfed like a showman. Because, as we said, that’s what he is.