Celebrating his 50th birthday after a historic win at the Billabong Pro Pipeline, 11-time World Champion Kelly Slater has now confirmed that he is committed to the 2022 Championship Tour. In a recent press interview leading up the the Hurley Pro Sunset Beach, Slater elaborated on his intentions:
As you turn 50 years old, what are your thoughts on being ranked number one in the world for the first time since 2014?
Yeah, it's crazy. Eight years later, I win my eighth Pipeline event and eight years after holding the Yellow Jersey last, I take it at 50 years old. I'm still having a hard time believing it to be honest. Not that I didn't think it was possible, but I didn't think it was going to be real. I have trouble thinking that someone else at 50 years old is going to do that one day, so It has been a really emotional few days for me thinking about that. I think Mick Fanning quit before he was 40 … but Mick was the kind of guy I could see, because of his physical abilities and his levels, that maybe he could push to do something like that but, um, I think I surprised myself with this one.
At the awards ceremony of the Billabong Pro Pipe you weren't sure about your plans for the rest of the season. Have you thought about it more?
Yeah, I'm planning to go to all the stops this year. I think I'm just committed -- I haven't really had a full year on Tour in like five years. Last year I got injured again right before Australia, so I missed those four events.
I was injured for a year and half where I couldn't compete, and we had the pandemic and we didn't have that year of competition, so the last four years have been really tricky for me and I had not won a contest in five and a half years since Teahupo'o and yeah, it's a lot to absorb. Kind of in the moment as I'm doing interviews I'm processing all the things that have happened in these past five, six years as well.
And like you said eight years, I didn't know how many, but I thought it was 2014 since I think I last held the Yellow Jersey at Cloudbreak and Gabriel [Medina] I think won and took it from me, from memory. But I think I have that jersey stored away in my storage back home. But now I got a new one! I got a new Yellow Jersey so let's go.
Do you think you can contend for the World Title in 2022?
I know I have work to do. I'm nowhere close to it. Being there. I know I gotta put in a lot of work between now and the end of the year. I know I gotta make that top five. I'd like to try to win a couple of contests this year now that I have that confidence back and the understanding of how to do that and the belief that it can happen … and getting to Trestles is -- it would be -- a bittersweet finish for me. You know, eventually this is gonna to end. Eventually this is gonna to end and there will be some sadness, but I'll also be relieved.
I could imagine Trestles being the perfect place because it's where I won my first competition after going pro. My very first pro win was there in 1990 on the PSAA contents. I was still in high school, I was starting my first week of my senior year, my last week in high school was that week, and I won $30,000 and it was just such a dream come true to start my career. So, it would be a nice place to finish for me also if I chose for it to be my last contest, if I make it to the Final 5.
What keeps you competitive and hungry after all these years?
I think the desire, that desire, there's always this other challenge and if you can physically get to that challenge, if you can mentally get to that challenge, and confront it, that's what pushes me. Besides that, I had an older brother, and I had to compete with a lot of older guys when I was a kid.
I texted my older brother the other day and I said, "I think this monster you helped create has finally been tamed."
So I'm really, I'm content. I'm happy where it all is. If it ends today, it's fine. But that just seemed like one more mountain to climb, that I had to get to the peak of this week. I'm gonna enjoy this year. I'm going to enjoy the next contest at Sunset where I've, you know, everyone thinks I hate Sunset, and I'll be honest, I don't love Sunset, but on certain days, I have a really good time out there.
I can't sit around and wait for the conditions to be right for what I want, but I can go out there and try to do as well or better than the other guy. That's the battle at each contest so, we'll get this next week underway and then we'll get to Portugal, and then we'll get the year going. We'll see what happens and have some fun.