- Alyssa Roenigk, ESPN The Magazine senior writer
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[Ed.'s Note: The Action Sports Report is a weekly blog that covers sports from skateboarding to snowboarding to FMX.]
Last week, I sat down with Kelly Slater for a story that will run in an upcoming issue of The Magazine. In one week, the 2009 ASP professional surf season opens with the Quiksilver Pro, held annually on Australia's Gold Coast. Slater, 37, is just two months out from winning his ninth world title. Or, put another way, he is 10 months away from possibly winning his 10th title. Of course, that was a major point of discussion, especially considering 10 is all most people want to talk about.
When we spoke, Slater was, as he has been for the past two seasons, committed to nothing more than the first contest of the season. "I haven't moved in three years," he said. "I'm not committing to anything right now. I'm taking it one contest at a time. I'll be on the Gold Coast, but after that, who knows."
In a press release earlier this week Slater echoed those comments, carefully choosing his non-committal words: "I commit to where I am," he said, saying nothing. "I'll be on the Gold Coast for sure." However, the surf media has taken that statement and twisted it into a commitment to a full season and a run at 10. If this season starts off like the past two, that is almost certainly a guarantee. But if Slater slips up Down Under, don't bet on it. A bad start to the season and, chances are, he'll skip the second event of the year, as he's planned to do for the past two seasons, and surf a partial tour, hitting his favorite stops and spending more time in his new Santa Barbara home.
"I tried to retire in 2006 and then I won the first two contests," he told me last week. (Then he won his eighth world title.) "Last year, I wasn't saying I would retire. I just said I'd take it contest by contest. I looked at the schedule and said, 'I'm not going to those contests.' The second contest at Bells was one of those. But my girlfriend talked me into going. She was busy with finals at school and there was no reason for me to stay home. So I went. And I won. I was two contests in with a perfect season. I crunched the numbers and realized it was pretty easy to have one of my better years. So Kalani is directly, fully responsible for number nine."
And what about 10? Is he in a mindset that will allow him to turn it on for a third-straight season?
"I am at my absolute best when my mind is free, I'm super happy emotionally and things are really good in my life," Slater said. "When there is no consequence for winning or losing, then you just enjoy the experience." Last year, he says he was in that happy place. Heck, he'd recently fallen in love. And this year?
"I'm pretty high up there right now, probably an 8 out of 10," he said, just two weeks before the start of the season. "I feel a lot more stable, a lot more comfortable in my skin. I feel good. Really good."
Bonus: Some of our favorite Slater footage.
Highlights from No. 9.
Slater at one of his new local breaks, The Queen of the Coast, Rincon.
Slater proving he can get mental in big waves too.
He stopped by our offices for a chat.
Slater wins the Pipeline Masters on a funky little hybrid.
He scares stingrays out of the water. Literally.
Switching stance in the middle of a heavy wave.
One of the two consecutive perfect 10 point rides Kelly had at Teahupoo in 2005.
Slater in Young Guns.
A retrospective of the Momentum Generation.
A look at what Kelly did at last year's first contest stop, the Gold Coast's Quicksilver Pro.
11hEthan Sherwood Strauss