Slater Wins at Cloudbreak

The 11-time World Champion adds another notch to his belt in Fiji

| posted on June 10, 2012

Slater, perfectly in tune with the hollow lefts of Cloudbreak. Photo: ASP

“Watch how sad Julian is about to become,” says Matt Wilkinson, watching on from the boat. “Giving Kelly Slater a 10-point wave is the shittiest feeling in the world.” The wave Julian gave Kelly isn’t a 10, but Julian won’t be feeling any better. It’s a 9.90 and the quarterfinal is as good as over. Inside the barrel on that wave Kelly actually rides the foamball on his belly, managing to right himself just in time for the thing to open up into a glorious spinning blue chamber. Kelly comes in and says, “Someone’s going to get a 10 out here today.” He will. It’s going to be one of those days for Kelly.

Kelly is soon back on the boat watching on as good friend CJ Hobgood—Cloudbreak specialist and all—is finding ways to lose against Adriano de Souza. Kelly is unimpressed. Two days ago at Restaurants, Adriano had broken gentleman’s rules and snaked CJ and tried to paddle him up the reef. It ruined the heat as a spectacle, but won it for Adriano. Kelly’s been on the receiving end of the same treatment before, most famously in Puerto Rico in 2010, and does not want Adriano to win. “CJ just needs to sit and wait and hope he finds a bomb,” says Kelly as the heat winds down in the dying minutes. CJ sits and waits and hopes and finds a bomb with just a few minutes on the clock. He comes flying out of a gaping pit with a claim that was strangely reminiscent of Adriano’s famous power claims.

The channel has come alive on the final day. The Fijian crew from the neighbouring islands of Namotu and Tavarua are doing burnouts in their longboats, waving flags and cheering raucously as guys from their respective islands catch waves. The top half of the draw is all Namotu while the bottom half is all Tavvy, so the final will feature one of each. The Namotu finalist was decided when Mick Fanning couldn’t find a wave against Brazilian teenager, Gab Medina, who, like he has at pretty well every other stop on Tour, proved himself a quick learner out here at Cloudbreak. The kid’s had quite the week. I shared a boat out with him on the morning of the big day and his eyes—usually dark, emotionless slits—were suddenly the size of dinner plates when confronted with 12-foot sets. It’s the first time he’s surfed this event, only the second time he’s ever been to Fiji, but the kid suddenly finds himself in the final.

Kelly’s performance against CJ in the second semi was frightening. Surfing a 5’9” quad, he combined 23 years of surfing knowledge on this reef with a performance level that is showing dangerous signs of still not having peaked—even at 40 years of age. His tube riding was instinctive, while the drive and torque of his backhand turns, well, no one came close to matching it. Kelly surfed Cloudbreak today as well as it’s ever been surfed. “I felt today I really came into form and I don’t feel I could have surfed much better to be honest,” he said afterwards. He chalks a 10, then backs it up with a 9.5. “That’s as probably about as good as I could do out here. It ticked all the boxes,” he said of the 10. “I got the barrel, did some turns and it spit at me when I freefell out of it.” He is quick to default and credit the wave though as the star of the show. “I’ve said it before; it’s the perfect canvas, that wave, and I’m just along for the ride. I was just enjoying it out there. I had a great time surfing against CJ. I was really looking forward to having as heat with him. I think he had some good karma on his hands after Adriano hassled the shit out of him the other day. But that wave got thrown at him in the last second and so we got a heat together. I was so happy to have a heat with CJ because it’s just fun being in the water together, its fun having heats with friends.”

Kelly only catches two waves in the final but that’s all he needs. Gab gets a gem, but a rookie win isn’t in the script. Not today. The Tavarua longboat waving the Stars and Stripes escorts him out of the lineup as the hooter blows, just as it did four years ago, the last time the Tour was in Fiji. Mick Fanning greets Kelly as he makes it back to the main boat. Kelly tells Mick he wished he’d made the final so he could pay him back for Bells. Kelly is now number three in the world with Tahiti next. This is how it used to happen when Fiji and Tahiti were back-to-back on Tour. This is where Kelly would make his title run. I later see someone online has already beaten the Quiksilver marketing department to nonsensical slogan, “Sla12er”.

But for now, Kelly knows it’s been a historic week that will be remembered as much for what didn’t happen as for what actually did when the contest stared down perfect 20-foot waves and walked away. “Man, it was a great week, but it seemed like everyone focused on the downside. They could have run four, maybe five heats that big day, and even the big-wave guys all said it was the right thing [for the contest not to run]. Without having the equipment and without the flotation, and then only having two guys in the lineup it would have been really confronting for those two guys. But hey, everyone would have gone out there and done their best and got a few waves, just that somebody might have drowned, that’s all.” Kelly is whisked off back to Tavarua where Kelly’s bar tab, notoriously frugal, will get a workout. The island’s favorite son has won again. “I’ve spent so much time on that island. Tavarua is a second home to me. Druku told me a while ago, ‘You’re welcome on the island anytime you want and can stay here as long as you want.’ One day I might visit and just not leave.”

Meanwhile the new world No. 1, Mick Fanning, is clambering aboard the longboat back to Namotu. It’s comically overloaded with bodies and boards. Mick stands at the bow and addresses everyone in the boat. “If I could just have your attention, I’ll run you through the safety procedure. In the unlikely event of this boat sinking, Karissa [Mick’s wife], as the only lady aboard you grab the biggest surfboard. Everyone else; it’s every man for himself. Ulai [our Fijian driver and the funniest man on the island], I’m sorry, you’re the skipper, you have to go down with the ship.” Back on Namotu, Mick seeks out young Gabby Medina and hands him a beer. The kid is not quite sure what to do with it. “Drink,” suggests Mick.

  • jay flow

    Kelly was way overscore on his first wave. He deserved to win, but his is a total dick out of the water.

  • Burck

    it’s funny how people critize adriano and FORGET how kelly used to play very hard in heats.
    ask shane beshen in 1996.

  • dirtywaves

    Kelly definitely deserved his win! He was schooling everyone out there ! It’s frightening to see how one man can dominate still… after 20 + years .

    The contest was awesome, this is starting to look like the dream tour again.. Now drop Rio and get Jbay back !

  • daniel

    what?gentleman‘s rules? it couldn’t get any more cynical, specially coming from mr. slater.

  • Danny

    I agree with jay flow: Kelly Was the BEST….that said, It is very lame on he’s behalf been so harsh on judge fellow competitors as he was once probably the most competitive and hassling….just ask Shane Beschen

  • Dirt

    Kelly surfed insane, best surfer of the event easy. He’s still overscored though. Some of the scores they thew him throughout the event were just plain silly.
    Also, I so badly wanted to see Adriano go face first onto the reef.

  • macx

    Slater overscored in final and joel (underscored) vs taj (superoverscored) in 5 round , WHAT A SHAME !!

  • Thomas

    what does : “but his is a total dick out of the water” mean?

  • trombone

    I farted

  • Mike

    Earth to nit-wits with this overscored BS…. i.e Mick at Bells… Who cares what he is like out of the water. You are watching the surfer that will be referred to down the road in lore. Stop fighting it and bone up to the fact that you are witness to an athlete that has won at the highest level for 20 years and through generations of talent that was supposed to push him to the back of the line. Enjoy the best while he is still here. Think of where pro surfing would be or better yet where it wouldn’t be if Slater was never in the picture. A short thank you to Julian Wilson if memory serves me hasn’t won a WCT event running his mouth last year at J-Bay suggesting Slater if he’s not serious should give a spot to some upstart who is trying to get on tour (I am paraphrasing). He fired Slater up and you see the results!

  • ron h

    kelly has so much style he can never be over scored, deserved every point he got, don’t know what he is like out of water but seems fine to me. been surfing for 50 years and i still get hyped watching these pros surf!

  • Bruno

    hey Kelly, Does Shane Beschen at Huntington beach in the mid 90´s in a final with you ring any bells? wise up and stop talking shit about Adriano, if you don´t like him ok, but please remember you used to do the same with the jersey on.

  • Young Donald Duck

    Yeah, Kelly, cause you’ve always been a gentleman in the water.
    By the way, is this competition or what? CJ looks like a crazy bitch every time he gets a score, doing the most stupid claims.

  • Pedro

    it`s sad how people continue to criticize Adriano. It only can be fear of him. “Go hard or go home” is what the USA culture is all about. Come on! Don`t waste our time with these Shit about Adriano. He`s just an excellent surfer doing his dutty like all the others on Tour. I don`t remember anybody talking about a heat between Parko and Tiago Pires on Teahupoo when he dropped a wave and jump onto the reef just to force an interference. It`s part of the game chicks.

  • Hell Grom

    jay flow,

    I believe you meant “overscore(d)” and “he is”. Keep working on your English because right now it very sucks

  • dgb

    Words that surfing commentators should not use:

    Larry Layback (demeans a difficult to do well maneuver)
    Chandeliers (Just dumb)
    No way! (Too late)
    Look at that! (I’s a web cast)
    This man knows how to ride the tube (Kinda goes without saying, really, being pro-surfers and all)
    Go, go, go, make it, make it, come on, come on…Yeeess and or Narghhh. (You’re either commentating or barracking. If you choose the latter, please leave the booth)

  • http://none rich

    Dear God, Please don’t let the greatest sport in the world gain hooligan fans that riot when they don’t get their way. Amen.

  • Daniel

    It’s funny now how Kelly is all sentimental about Adriano’s game play. He mastered the intimidation technique for decades and now want to judge adriano’s behavior???The only adriano’s fault was not pressure CJ on the last wave, he had priority and backed off because all shit was threw at him for that heat against CJ…..

  • Stucco

    dgb, you can add “ARE YOU KIDDING ME??!!” to that list.

  • fuckbrazil

    adriano is a fucking kook who claims floaters,and does pussy non-commited turns, and claims EVERY FUCKING WAVE.. fuck adriano atleast gabriel and miguel have class and can acutally back it up.

  • Mad Dog

    Kelly, Cj, two of biggest faggots from Miami. Please retire!!!!

  • Duc

    “It’s funny now how Kelly is all sentimental about Adriano’s game play. He mastered the intimidation technique for decades and now want to judge adriano’s behavior???The only adriano’s fault was not pressure CJ on the last wave, he had priority and backed off because all shit was threw at him for that heat against CJ…..”

    Why u rage? Kelly wanted a heat with CJ. He got it. So his tactics worked again. Pretty brilliant if you ask me.

  • macx

    Slater overscored in final and joel (underscored) vs taj (superoverscored) in 5 round , WHAT A SHAME !!!!



  • MadDog

    All the Slater haters , just face it fellows the brother is a super surfer. A lot of you guys just can’t stand it because he is a east coast native and not from the west coast of Cali. Face it guys the man is getting better with age. And most of the people that I no really like the brother and that includes most of the ASP. The man has given his time to other board shapers with Ideals and even helped them shape and test their new designs.Look at Jordy Smith , O’Neil thought he had the next super kid and he hasn’t done crap. John John is better then Jordy in my opinion . Just face it guys Slater is just getting better with age like a awesome wine. The brother can surf any kind of break, anywhere and any size. He is the man, no one will ever match are beat his records. Get over it brother man. The dude is for real……..Face it Believe it … The Slate!!!

  • Carioca

    Hey Shea, good article. However, I was wondering, why barely mentioning Gabe Medina. Last article you had him as a one spot specific guy. I’m wondering what spot? The kid was runner up at Fiji on the largest swell outside of Hawaii. He was 5th at the largest Pipe of the last 20 years. Won, placing “power surfers” in combo land at OB barrells and somehow you seem to “kindly ignore” him. I’m sure Kelly doesn’t. Its 2×1 for Gabe over Kelly. What other surfer has this record against the champ?

  • tony (ty) carson big island

    Wow, about 26 posts on this article, out of thousands of surfers on the planet, I guess the vast majority of surfers are just not that interested in por, oops, I meam, pro surfing. After seeing the surf industry and its pawns ( pro surfers), continue to prostitute surfing to the massses, for their own personal gain, can anyone really blame them . I think most really hardcore surfers, would rather be out catching waves for themselves, than sitting on their butts and watching some one else surf. Good luck, sean