Joe Surf: Now that Slater's got the city key, come on back to compete

June 29, 2011|By Joe Haakenson

So last week, Huntington Beach gave Kelly Slater a key to the city.

Well deserved.

Didn't they name a street after him, too? You know, Slater Avenue, between Talbert and Warner avenues?

Anyway, he deserves it. Some call him the best surfer ever, and it's hard to argue when you go on facts — like the fact that he has won 10 ASP World Titles, including one as recently as last year.

No one has won even half as many men's world titles as Slater, and four years ago, he passed one of his childhood heroes, Tom Curren, to become the all-time leader in World Championship Tour (WCT) career event victories. His total is now up to 46.


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.

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