On Sunday (December 8) event 10 of the ASP World Championship Tour will get under way at Pipeline, Hawaii. Mick Fanning sits in first place on 53,100 points, while Kelly Slater is nipping at his heels on 45,900 points; one of these two will be tagged the World Tour Champion by December 20.
These two friendly rivals are household names in the surfing community, and with good reason.
Since 1992 the Tour has crowned just eight champions, and only four of them are still competing; C.J. Hobgood (1), Joel Parkinson (1), Mick Fanning (2), and of course Kelly Slater (11).
Slater has tasted victory an incredible six times at the Pipeline Masters, and betting agencies are tipping this year to be no different. But anyone who follows the WCT closely knows that the 11-time World Champion hasn’t been himself in 2013. Typically he’s a model of consistency, but Slater’s results are all over the place; 2 firsts, 1 second, 2 fifths, 1 ninth, 2 thirteenths, and 1 twenty-fifth.
Don’t get me wrong, Kelly has still been that influential guy whose surfing continues to leave onlookers astonished; he blew our minds at Cloudbreak in Fiji this year (one of his two event wins in 2013).
Though, normally as Pipeline draws near, we find ourselves saying things like, “Ahh Slater is finishing the year strong … again”, or, “Don’t forget about Kelly he understands how to close out a season”; not so much in 2013. Since 2008, the three events leading into Pipeline, Kelly has posted a top three finish at one of the stops, and at least a second result as well (except in 2009).
- Event 7: Trestles, California: 13th – Tied second worst results in 2013
- Event 8: South West Coast, France: 5th
- Event 9: Supertubos, Portugal: 25th – Worst results in 2013
Slater’s lack of stability and confidence seemed to boil over after his shock bounce in round 2 at Portugal. Kelly’s candid interview gave onlookers an indication that his extensive time on Tour has finally taken its toll.
“I’ve just been having trouble being very inspired by the surf at the last three events. My performance has probably shown that.”
“I don’t know if I’ll watch much (more of the event) to be honest. I think I might leave tonight or tomorrow. It doesn’t look like the surf’s going to be that good all this week, it’ll be onshore wind and gets a bit biggest. I’d have to ask Renato or look at the numbers myself, but I think if Mick make the final maybe I’m out.”
After more than 20 years on tour, has Kelly’s competitive spark run out? This is the Kelly Slater, the guy who barely ate for a week so he could give his digestive system a rest. Why? Well because he stated that it’s the only part of your body that continuously works and never has a chance to regenerate. The 41-year treats his body like a temple for the sole purpose of competing. Yoga, paleo cereals, no meat, and ground bison – the list goes on.
Mick Fanning appears to be in a much different stage in his life. MF’s 2013 results are a testament to that; 1 first, 1 second, 3 thirds, 3 fifths, and 1 ninth. Fanning slid under the radar for a large portion of the year and now finds himself in pole position to secure his third title in seven attempts.
Fanning had the ability to secure the Championship in Portugal but couldn’t quite get into a rhythm in the below-par conditions.
It’s the first time that Fanning and Slater have been locked in a title battle, or even been in a close title race. One mental hurdle Fanning must overcome will be the fact that he’s yet to win a Pipe Masters or a Triple Crown event, including the individual legs of the Triple Crown.
Scenario: If Mick wins, he will be crowned the champion. If Kelly wins the Masters, and Fanning finishes fifth or worse, then Slater takes home his twelfth title.
I’m tipping Fanning. As legendary as Slater is, frustration is a characteristic of Kelly’s personality we aren’t accustomed to. Even though he’s yet to taste victory at Pipe, Mick’s imposing lead and consistent performance in 2013 sends my gut his way. Plus, when Mick needed to he sealed his two World Titles at the event in 2007 and 2009.
Fanning deserves another title; which would further cement his place in surfing history as one of the greatest of all time. There are only a select few in the 3 or more World Title club:
- Andy Irons – 3 World Titles (Hawaii)
- Tom Curren – 3 World Titles (USA)
- Mark Richards – 4 World Titles (Australia)
- Kelly Slater – 11 World Titles (USA)