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Can Slater Go All The Way?

Here is a cold hard fact we can't ignore: King Slater has historically dominated the Gold Coast. He's racked up six event victories at Snapper, and is tied only with hometown hero Steph Gilmore for most event wins. He won in 1997, 1998, 2006, 2008, 2011 and 2013. And here's the kicker ... five out of his six event wins led to a World Title victory.

Think about that for a minute.

If you look at Tour history since his first win 22 years ago -- gasp, he's been surfing Goldie for longer than Rookie Seth Moniz has been alive -- Snapper has been a huge indicator for how Slater will perform in the title race.

Plus, Slater is the last remaining tribe elder still on Tour. Since Mick and Joel, both 2x winners themselves, are retired now, kicking back and enjoying that free surf life, the spotlight of age will be shinning brighter than ever before upon him.

Slater and Parko Battle at Goldie
The Final came down to Kelly Slater local legend Joel Parkinson at the 2013 Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast

So, if Slater takes his seventh win at the 2019 Quicksilver Gold Coast Pro, does that cast an early cloud on the young bucks like John John and Gabe?

Yes, absolutely. But not so fast.

There are some wrinkles to this neatly packed narrative. Sure, Slater is the Greatest Of All Time, and sure, he has made it clear his foot injury from last season is fully healed. Yes, he's hitting the golf course regularly and taking some quality time to experiment with boards at the Ranch. But his recent performance at the Vissla Syndey Surf Pro at Manly Beach created some serious doubt about his prowess in small surf. The type of conditions you have to master to make a serious go at the World Title.

Kelly Slater USA at the 2019 Vissla Manly Surf Pro at Manly Beach, NSW, Australia. Slater exits the water after a disspointing show at Manly last month. WSL / Matt Dunbar

Slater came out of the gate strong at Manly, winning his first heat. But he was eventually smoked in Round 3 Heat 5 by three QS grinders including Jesse Mendes, who punted airs above the lip in 2-3-foot surf like it was nothing.

Slater on the other hand had difficulty manufacturing scores in waves that required nimble foot work. "I couldn't really find a decent wave out there," Slater told the WSL after his heat. "There were some good ones out there because Jesse (Mendes) and Alex (Ribiero) got a few but I just struggled to be in the spot."

But to completely write off Slater this early in the game would be a mistake. His competitive fire is hard to smother, and he may learn a thing or two about improving his game after Manly. And there is also another factor to consider in his motivation to win … the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

11X World Champion Kelly Slater (USA) is eliminated from the 2018 Billabong Pipe Masters with an equal 3rd finish after placing second in semifinal heat 2 at Pipeline, Oahu, Hawaii, USA. Kelly Slater with his eye on Tokyo 2020. WSL / Kelly Cestari

Speaking with the New Zealand Herald recently, Slater remarked, "There is a chance I could retire at the end of this year, at least from full-time competition, but if it looks like, or if I feel like I'm going to make the Olympics, I'll probably end up trying to do that next year."

Slats has racked up an astounding list of accolades: He is the youngest and oldest World Champ in the League, he's been on tour for 27 years, he's won more World Titles than any other surfer by four, and was named as one People Magazine's, '50 Most Beautiful People.'

Plus, after all this hard work, would Slater honestly pass up an opportunity for a spot on the US Olympic team and the shot at a Gold Medal? No, not a chance.

He is the undisputed world ambassador for surfing, and that may just be the extra motivation needed to work hard on his small wave game.

Write off King Slater at your own peril, he's still got plenty of fight left in him.

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