Following his win today at the Volcom Pipe Pro over Wiggolly Dantas, Mason Ho, and Adriano De Souza, Slater took a few moments to talk to the press. In the transcription below, Slater discusses his 10-point ride, what prompted him to enter the event, and the prospects of him committing to the World Tour full time next year.
What made you want to finally surf in this contest?
I’ve been here for the past three years watching perfect waves at this event and it was frustrating to not be out there. I figured I’d enter and have fun. I knew it would run into that Pebble Beach golf tournament—which is the one golf tournament I really want to do every year—but if the waves are gonna be amazing…you just don’t want to miss perfect Pipeline with only a few other guys out. But I think it worked out, I’m gonna try and make it to that tournament tomorrow.
You had a pretty close heat early on in the comp, but you really seemed to be in your element today.
Yeah, that first heat I had on the first day I was real close to not making it through. But I think that seems to always happen at Pipe. There’s always one heat where you struggle. Everyone who wins a contest out here has one heat where they barely get through. But after that, I felt real comfortable. I didn’t feel too stressed at any point. I got most of my waves early on in each of my heats and I didn’t have to battle. Most of the heats where you get your waves early, you can either control everyone else or sneak off by yourself. Once I get my waves I like to be able to sit where I want and not worry if someone’s on either side of me and that I need this wave or that wave.
Was it hard for you to adjust to the 25-minute four-man format?
Today was really consistent. There were tons of waves so it wasn’t really a factor. This morning was just nonstop. There were enough waves for everyone. It started to become a factor toward the end of the semis and the final, but for the most part it wasn’t too bad.
Can you talk about that 10 in your Round of 32 heat?
That was one of those thick, meat-eater ones. There was a set on it, but there was smaller wedge underneath it. It was just a gnarly wave. There’s no two ways about it. I was paddling into it and going, “I can’t think too much on this one. I just have to trust my instincts.” I got stuck on the lip for a half second. I knew I had to get down there as fast as I could and free falling is the fastest way. I didn’t want to look down the line until I landed. I was sure I was in the right spot, but when I landed I turned and my board came up the face a little too quickly and I was falling back down to where the lip was gonna hit. But it was pitching so wide the foam ball didn’t take me out. Then it just spit me out. That was a real memorable wave, I don’t think Ill ever forget that one.
How does this win compare to your other wins out here?
It’s right up there. I think that one in December with Mick in the final, just having a man-on-man 40-minute heat, that’s impossible to beat. That’s been a dream of mine for a long time. But just having four guys out at Pipeline on a really good day? Hard to beat that. I mean this morning was really good. It was perfection. I’d give it an A this morning. This afternoon it was sort of average; it wasn’t great. But if there weren’t a contest, there would be 60 guys out there hassling. So to have a little room out there is amazing. I had three waves out there this morning that were so good…they were worth taking a reef shot to the side of the head. You’d get hurt for those waves. Had I had not made them, I probably would have.
It seems like a lot of people were catching some beatings today.
Yeah, I got sort of lucky. I never really hit the reef that bad, but I ended up on all fours a couple of times. I actually did get the nose of my board to my face. I don’t know if I have a mark, but I was bleeding a little bit in the water. I was actually bailing out on one in the final and the whitewater shot the board right at my face and it just skimmed my nose and barely got me underneath my eye. Got lucky that I didn’t get hurt on that one.
Did you have a strategy going into the final?
Just to get waves and get a good score early on. When you have one under your belt, you’re not the guy chasing. And when you are the guy chasing, guys will try and sit on you and out maneuver you. It could be for them or for their friend, depending on who’s ahead of you. It just gets a little tricky in four man heats. Based on what score you have, you can put pressure on someone early or they can put pressure on you. I guess that’s sort of the dynamic for four-man heats. You want to get your waves early and hope that guys forget about you.
Backdoor seemed like it was pretty much the call for you this afternoon.
Yeah, I saw a lot of good waves go unridden today at Backdoor. When I see good waves go unridden in heats, it almost makes me mad. Like, go get that thing, ya know? [laughs.]. So that’s what I was looking for out there.
Are you going to Snapper and are you committed to the ‘CT this season?
Yep, I’m going to Snapper. That’s the plan right now. It’s uh… I don’t want to really think about it. I mean, I plan on going and being there. [Laughs.]. I’m already working on boards for it. But there’s that lure of potentially getting great waves all the time, that’s always there, but I guess I’ve got to figure it out.