Slater has had as much to do with surfing's growth in popularity as any individual, and where would "Surf City" be without surfing? Maybe it'd be an abandoned oil town with inoperative oil drills scattered all over.
But there is one event where Slater hasn't necessarily been at his best, and it's coming soon — the U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach from July 30 to Aug. 7. Slater has won the event once, and that was 15 years ago when Slater was at his peak in the midst of a five-year run (1994-98) of world titles.
Slater's still in great shape, but truth is, he turns 40 next year. His window of opportunity for winning again in Huntington Beach is slowly closing. Whether or not he can win again in Huntington is up for debate, but one thing I know for sure is he can't win if he doesn't compete.
Last I saw, Slater had not yet confirmed his participation in this year's U.S. Open.
C'mon Slats, we know the wave at Huntington is not great. We know you love Lowers. We know the Open is more about the enormity of the event than it is about the surfing. Nobody's fooling themselves.
We know you don't need it. You don't need the money, and you certainly don't need any more fame. I checked out your Twitter page, and your "followers" list total seemed to grow as fast as the charges on the gas pump when filling up your tank.
Slater is No. 1 in the latest ASP Men's World Ranking, ahead of No. 2 Jordy Smith, who placed second to Brett Simpson in last year's U.S. Open. Simpson, an H.B. local and the two-time defending champ at the U.S. Open, is ranked No. 14.
It's remarkable that Slater has been able to maintain a No. 1 ranking when his priorities certainly have changed over the years. Surfing is right up there, but competing isn't.