Kelly Slater was so dominant for so long, that speculation over his plans for the future have become a constant component of his career. While it's been a decade since he won the last of his 11 World Titles, it's obvious that he's still more than capable of raising the bar even higher.
There's few, if any, other athletes in the world which this statement could be made about -- who else is at the top of their game as they're nearing 50? Kelly even has a few years on the 43-year-old quarterback of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tom Brady.
On the eve of the Tour's return, Slater has appeared on the Howie Games podcast -- the largest sports podcast in Australia. In between dozens of other gems that come out of this wide-ranging, multi-hour conversation is an especially candid insight from Kelly on his competitive mindset.
Kelly is the most intensively competitive athlete surfing has ever seen, so a grain of salt is required when analysing any perceived intention to kick up his heels and enjoy himself, but the interview nevertheless provides a window into his mindset fans don't always have such wide access to.
So, how realistic is Kelly's quest for Title number 12?
"This will be ten years since I've won a World Title, so I have to face the music at some point," Kelly told host Mark Howard. "I also couldn't tell you the last time I put in in a one hundred per cent year, so I'm struggling with myself as to whether I'm going to do that, surround myself with a team, with the body work, with the nutrition and everything I need, getting the right sleep ... like, there's a lot of discipline that goes in and I have been disciplined for 35 years competitively."
"That discipline is tiring over such a long period of time, and I am just trying to muster up that, 'can I just get myself, completely to where everything, like my boards are right, I choose the right boards and equipment on the day, I'm getting the right amount of sleep and body work and eating the right things, I'm not just going around to these places enjoying the social aspect of you know, the dinners you can have out, the places you missed that you didn't get to eat at last time ... it's a hard thing to balance in that way.
"It's easier when you haven't accomplished your goal, to let that focus discipline you.
"It's not so much resting on your laurels, but it's like, let me just enjoy a little more of what these places have to offer, the people, and the experience ... I've felt like a few of the years now have been a victory lap, to kind soak that in a bit more."
All that said, Slater is number three in the world and his recent performance at Pipeline shows he's -- on the right day -- still surfing better than some of the best surfers in the world who are half his age. With the Tour about to recommence at Newcastle on April 1, you just never know what Slater is going to full out of the bag.
The full episode is available here.