Picture this: Kelly Slater, the greatest surfer of all time, creator of the most perfect artificial wave technology right now, and likely the person in the world who’s caught the most perfect waves in his lifetime has a photo that hangs on the wall of his house on Oahu.
It’s a stunning image of Pipeline taken from the channel. An empty, cerulean tube with puffs of clouds in the sky – not a single drop of water out of place. The story behind it, though, is not that it’s an amazing reminder of the natural beauty of Pipeline or even that a great wave can still manage to slip through the crowd unridden at the surf world’s most famous stretch of reef. No, for Kelly Slater it’s a reminder of the perfect wave that got away – and that it hangs prominently in his home is especially revealing of a man who constantly seeks perfection and is never satisfied.
“This picture still kind of haunts me because it was the greatest wave I’ve ever seen at Pipeline and I could’ve caught it,” says Slater in the newest trailer of HBO’s 24/7 profile on him that airs Tuesday. “This wave was coming and I was like, ‘This is the wave I’ve waited my whole life for. That’s the one.’ And I just couldn’t figure out how to catch it and not kill myself.”
Then Slater slips into a warning that’s also a quite prophetic metaphor:
“That’s a reminder: every time you go out there make sure if that wave ever comes your way you don’t miss it.”
This episode of HBO’s award-winning series will be the first to profile a professional surfer and ostensibly will track Slater’s preparation for the 2019 Billabong Pipe Masters – the waiting period of which kicks off December 8th. But, at the tail end of his career, the moment is especially poignant.
Panning across a group of Pipe Masters trophies, Slater says, “Best trophy in surfing. If I won this year it’s gonna go right next to that one,” pointing at them.
In a second trailer cut for the episode (see below), Slater reveals just how important a final Pipe Masters would be, edging toward a possible hint at retirement.
“If I could win the Pipe Masters this year and if it was the last contest I ever won in my career I would die a happy man, for sure,” he says.
The question heading into the Pipe Masters this year is will the greatest of all time clinch and put a perfect exclamation point on the end of his career – especially with John John Florence possibly in the heat draw. Or, will it all end like a giant image of the wave that got away. For all the man has contributed to our sport, I sincerely hope it’s the former.