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Continuance: Kelly Slater

Think of sport's all time greats, those athletes and icons that transcend their own discipline to become folk heroes, champions of causes, who come to represent something more than their collective achievements, and it's usually only after their careers come to conclusion that their full worth is felt.

‘You don't know what you've got till it's gone' Joni Mitchell famously wrote from a hotel room in Waikiki, and while her location was fitting, her message perhaps applies less to surfing's icon of icons.

Kelly Slater at the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast. After more than two decades of battle, the 11x World Champion savors the preparation more than ever. WSL / Steve Sherman

Because surfing and Kelly Slater is something else entirely. The sport does know what it has. He did already leave and comeback. And the nature of his Tour career's eventual conclusion -- defying convention, record books and seemingly the physiology of the aging process -- makes not only the event unique, but the circumstances. It's not like he'll no longer get picked by his coach or traded. No fading out of relevance or potency, or creaking limbs not serving as they once did.

Kelly Slater at the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast. At 45, Slater has inspired multiple generations. WSL / Steve Sherman

Even at 45, Slater's leaving on his own terms, at the top of his game.

You can make your own arguments as to the exact make-up of the rarefied company Slater's achievements have him keeping. But the likes of Ali, Jordan, Pele and Tiger surely come to mind. You can make the case for Phelps, Federer, or Navratilova too. But whatever. The very definition of greatness, what separates the true greats from just the very very goods is the fact that are once in a generation, at best. And no matter where you stood on the Andy/Kelly debate, no matter how much you want to see John John win and keep winning, once in a generation is irrefutable, and once, ever, is pretty likely.

John John Florence and Kelly Slater at the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast. When it comes right down to it, swapping stories has always been a huge part of The Tour's allure. WSL / Steve Sherman

So when Slater, the greatest surfer of all time announced that 2017 would be his last full lap of the World Tour, something like the beginning of the end was set in motion. And the unique set of circumstances means we get to see the 11x World Champion's swan song as it unfolds. So perhaps our cloud, as surf fans, has a silver lining. We get to savor the writing of our own folklore, we get the behind the scenes access, the candid thoughts as they happen. Behold, episode one of documentary series, Continuance, celebrating the people and places that have shaped Slater's legendary career and his personal connections all over the world.

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