You don't win 11 World Titles without an adept handle on strategic pacing, and Kelly Slater can shift gears like a Formula One racer. Sure, he'll probably tell you (or Kaipo Guerrero during a post-heat webcast interview) it's unintentional, but it's just too much of a pattern to brush aside.
Slater promised a more focused approach this year, and that's what we've witnessed from him this week at Snapper. When conditions got worse, he got better, which is exactly the kind of reaction required for a World Title run.
The Champ improved his total heat scores throughout the event, building momentum toward his deep run at the Quik Pro. While he wasn't happy with his close loss against Gabriel Medina, a 5th place finish is a much better start than last year.