Much has been written about the legacy of 11x World Champion Kelly Slater. Much of it occurred back in 2010, after Slater captured his 10th World Title in Puerto Rico. The number gave the mainstream press something to sink their teeth into. The New York Times began pondering Slater's place among the best athletes ever, and mainstream sport pundits like Dan Patrick, who traditionally scoffed at such suggestions, had to entertain the thought.
No other athlete has been a greater gravitational force in his or her sport the way Slater has. He nabbed his first World Title at the age of 20, his celebrated 10th came when he was 38, and his 11th the following year. Today, one decade after passing Tom Curren's record of 33 Championship Tour victories, Slater is entering the Billabong Pipe Masters with 55 career wins -- seven of those at Pipeline.
In fact, Slater's stats at Pipeline, the preeminent wave on Oahu's North Shore, are likely never to be touched. On Monday he made his 26th career appearance at the prestigious event. As intimidating as his career numbers are, his Pipe numbers are even more frightening. Behold a few of the gems.
Career appearances: Kelly Slater has 26; Joel Parkinson, the next best, has 16.
Pipe Masters Wins Kelly Slater has 7; the late Andy Irons, the next best, won 4.
Finals appearances: Kelly Slater has 12; Joel Parkinson and Andy Irons, the next best, have 4.
Heats surfed: Kelly Slater has 122; Joel Parkinson, the next best, has 53.
Heat wins: Kelly Slater has 85; Joel Parkinson, the next best, has 28.
Heat win percentage: Kelly Slater's is 69 percent; John John Florence, the next best, is 68%.
Excellent scoring heats: Kelly Slater has 33; John John Florence, the next best, has 16.
Monday was Slater's first time competing since breaking the metatarsals in his foot back in July. Surfing on a foot he claims is about 65 percent healed, he won his Round One heat. "After so many years of nonstop day in, day out, week in and and week out, it's been kind of nice to have a few months off," Slater said afterward. "But...it's nice to get away from something that you love and get back and appreciate it."
While he's not part of this year's World Title race, Slater -- hobbled or not -- remains a huge spoiler threat to anyone in his path. At the age of 45, there's no point in asking how long he can do this. Slater's first Pipe Masters victory came back in 1992, when Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were still playing basketball. His latest came as recently as 2013, and his 55th career victory came in 2016 in Tahiti.
At 45, one would think another Pipe victory would be the perfect moment for Slater to do a mic drop on his career. But then again, his 2013 comeback win over John John Florence (his heir apparent at Pipe) seemed like an opportune time, too. Slater fans stopped playing that guessing game a while ago.