The World Surfing League has crowned Kelly Slater champion 11 times, but he hasn’t experienced the same level of consistent success over the last three seasons. Following up a semifinal at Fiji and a trip to the quarterfinals at Jeffreys Bay, Slater carved his way through eight-to-ten foot swells, feeding of a perfect 20.0 in the semi-final round entering the two-man final.
Slater clearly out surfed John John Florence, just missing perfection on all three of his final rides. Three unbelievable rides in the final, allowed Slater to take home honors at the seventh event out of the eleven scheduled surfing competitions on the Galaxy World Surfing Championship Tour.
Each surfer was worthy of his spot in the finals, where they collectively rode out 35 barrels, with Slater ultimately just too perfect for Florence on this afternoon. This was Slater’s first victory since 2013 and catapulted him up 11 spots on the Jeep Leaderboard where he now sits in 8th place in the world rankings.
It’s been a disappointing last 3 years for Slater, but Pro Tahiti, the 55th Championship Tour victory in his career, might be the ‘keg’ that kick-starts him towards a successful 2017 campaign. Teahupo has always been kind to Slater, the place where he has surfed to 5 previous titles beginning with his first in 2000.
The pair of Championship Tour stars didn’t miss a beat heading into their final showdown. Florence spun off a quick 8.0 in his first ride, but Slater set the tone immediately, busting off a 9.77. He never let up after his first near perfect ride.
Slater caught his second wave, escaping a deep barrel with a stupendous free-fall drop to nail a 9.17 building a lead that Florence would not be able to overcome. When it came down to 10 minutes on the finals clock, Florence needed to push for perfection to even have a chance, but Slater threw down another spectacular ride and a phenomenal 9.90 to post a nearly unbeatable final tally of 19.67, just .33 shy of duplicating his perfect semi-final score.
Spectators were treated to an incredible day of surfing at Teahupo, but when the breakers cleared it was Slater, who just out surfed everyone at the competition. Slater seems to have regained that form that catapulted him up the rankings board in years past as one of the premier surfers on the world surfing scene.