MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal

Slater: "I'm Going to Take One More Stab at a Title"

Anna Dimond

While John John Florence was being handed his first World Title trophy on Tuesday 11x World Champion Kelly Slater could be seen taking it all in perched on the tower above. Slater beamed with pride as his star pupil was officially anointed the master. The whole scene inspired Slater, who took a few minutes afterwards to reflect on his own season, and how the next generation is keeping him in the game.

John John Florence is the 2016 World Champion and the Rip Curl Pro Portugal Winner. Intentional or not, Slater's perch above the podium in Portugal Tuesday was highly symbolic. - WSL / Kelly Cestari

WSL: During the awards ceremony, you were looking over from above. How did it feel watching John, who you've known since he was small, take the mantle?
Kelly Slater: I felt like a proud brother. I've known John since he was in the single digits. When he and his brothers were so small, I could get him on my back and have him stand up while I was bodysurfing.

I felt like a proud brother. I've known John since he was in the single digits.

It's great to see this, and to be here for this and be a part of it in some way. I grew up with the Johnson family and Petey [Johnson] is like a dad and a big brother to John, so I'm sure he wished he was here. But I feel like I'm glad I'm here on Petey's behalf. I lost two days ago and could have left but thought it would be nice to be here and see what plays out and if did happen, be on hand.

John John Florence celebrating his World Title Victory at the Meo Rip Curl Pro Portugal. The euphoria flowed as freely as the beer Tuesday in Portugal. - WSL / Damien Poullenot

It seems you're in this unique position of having one foot in the CT as a competitor, but also with a huge body of knowledge and perspective. Have you imparted any wisdom to John or the other guys as they work through their seasons?
You know, I'm probably more of an open book than you would think in terms of - if somebody asks me. It's just not often that somebody on tour comes and asks you a question. You're not going to be jumping out of your skin to share things, but I think I would give an honest, fair response if someone asked me for a suggestion.

Kelly Slater during Round 1 of the Rip Curl Pro Portugal. Despite high-flying moves like this, an on-fire Miguel Pupo eliminated Slater in Round Three of the MEO Rip Curl Pro. - WSL / Poullenot/Aquashot
I'm going to take one more stab at a Title next year and really try to put a year together. I'm pretty inspired by what panned out this year...So I'm going to take these next four months, get my body together, and get my motivation and...see if I can really put together a focused year.

But I think I'm going to take one more stab at a Title next year and really try to put a year together. I'm pretty inspired by what panned out this year in the back half. So I'm going to take these next four months, get my body together, and get my motivation and my boards and everything right and see if I can really put together a focused year.

Slater's return to the podium at Teahupo'o proved to be a motivating force. He wants more.

How does it feel seeing the next generation step up?
Well, every year it's happening, really. You could definitely argue that that's the case with Gabriel winning a few years back. And up until that point it was Mick and Joel and myself winning Titles up until then. But then Adriano kind of snuck one in for the older generation, the more established guys, last year. But I think it was fitting to see Gabriel and Jordy and even Kolohe in the mix, and John.

Slater Opens Up About the John John vs. Gabe World Title Rivalry
It was impossible not to feel the World Title fever in Portugal, especially for Kelly Slater.

And I think everyone was pleasantly surprised by Wilko [Matt Wilkinson] this year. It was a real underdog story. To never have won a contest and then win the first two of the year, where he put himself in, I would say, a tough position. A position anyone would wish they had, but also a tough position because at that point everyone is chasing you. It's an unfamiliar place. And he really kept it together for about five events, and then he started to falter in Rio, but then came back in Fiji where everyone had low expectations for him, but he got second. He kept everyone at bay except for Gabriel. But at that point, J-Bay, at a place he surfs great, he looked awful. And it was just nerves, it wasn't his surfing.

I think everyone was pleasantly surprised by Wilko this year. ...To never have won a contest and then win the first two of the year, where he put himself in...a position anyone would wish they had, but also a tough position because at that point everyone is chasing you.

And at that point, everything went south. John John and Gabriel, they're not going to make many mistakes. So somebody like Wilko, who's never been in that position, doesn't know how to handle it, I think he did great. It's pretty admirable to get a lot of his best results in one year.

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