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Paris Olympics drove surfing’s GOAT Kelly Slater to extend record-breaking stint on tour

Rourke Walsh in Margaret RiverThe West Australian
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Kelly Slater is chaired off the beach.
Camera IconKelly Slater is chaired off the beach. Credit: Beatriz Ryder/World Surf League

Kelly Slater admits the dream of surfing at an Olympic Games “messed with me a bit” and is probably what spurred the 11-time world champion to return from major hip surgery “a little too soon” while still hampered by pain.

Slater, widely considered the greatest surfer of all time, bid an emotional farewell to Margaret River farewell to the Margaret River crowd and was chaired up the beach stairs by locals following his round of 32 heat loss to current world No.1 and fellow American Griffin Colapinto on Tuesday.

And while he is yet to officially announce his retirement from competition, his time as a fulltime competitor on the World Surf League championship tour appears over, with the 52-year-old expecting a child with partner Kalani Miller in July and admitting he getting ready for a “different lifestyle”.

Speaking on the WSL broadcast, Slater revealed he had felt the end coming since his remarkable win at Pipeline in 2022 as a 50-year-old, which included two incredible waves of 9.77 and 9.00.

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“That was the moment, if you can see, I actually said something to myself out loud after I came out of the barrel against Seth (Moniz) in the final,” Slater said.

“I was like, ‘I’m f-ing done’ and ‘that’s it’, but then the Olympic thing kind of messed with me bit.

“But right in that moment was when I truly felt that relief. In that moment when I saw daylight and I came out of that barrel I couldn’t believe I was real and it happened. It was really like watching someone else do it.”

While unlikely to seek a fulltime place on next year’s tour, Slater said he still hoped to surf at some of his favourite events — being Pipeline, Teahupo’o and Cloud Break —as a wild-card.

This year’s Olympic surfing will be held at the iconic Teahupo’o break in Tahiti. The event is one of the few that Slater has not won in his decorated career, having only become an Olympic sport at the last Games in Tokyo.

“I was trying to get myself into the Olympics,” Slater said. “Since that looks like it isn’t going to happen in any reasonable sense — like 10 people would have to get injured or something — other than that you know the events I like to surf if I can be afforded those.

“I’m going to give myself a week or two or three to settle down and see how I’m feeling but if those opportunities arise, there are a couple of events I really love and . . . if those opportunities come up I’ll see how I’m feeling.”

Kelly Slater after surfing in Heat 5.
Camera IconKelly Slater after surfing in Heat 5. Credit: Aaron Hughes/World Surf League

Slater said he had felt a sense of relief after his elimination, and was at peace with where he was at.

“There’s no sleepless nights with the pressure,” he said. “I think I put a lot of pressure on myself, I have a certain expectation and I haven’t been putting in the work and discipline, the hours in the water.

“You’ve got to surf with a lot of people and figure out the waves and stuff and I did that for so long so it’s nice to have that slightly in the rear-view at this point.

“I am surfing very injured still, I probably came back a little too soon after the injury but I wasn’t going to stick around ’til next year and say, ‘OK I’ll have one of the wild cards’. Especially with Joao (Chianca) hurt and a couple of guys that are in the beginning of their careers and have all the desire to be there. It’s the right time.”

Kelly Slater’s Olympic dreams drew him back early.
Camera IconKelly Slater’s Olympic dreams drew him back early. Credit: Aaron Hughes/World Surf League

Slater also reflected on some of his proudest achievements, including winning and event and becoming the No.1 in the world at age 50, adding surfing would always be a big part of his life.

“Surfing is still no.1 to me,” he said. “I still want to surf my best every day and get my favourite board and surf the best wave of my life and I don’t think that ever goes away.”

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