Kelly Slater clinched his ninth world championship today at an ASP World Tour event in Mundaka, Spain. Sixteen years ago, he was the youngest person to win the World Tour at age 20. Today, he set the record as the oldest. Slater has been on the tour fourteen times, and the 2008 contest was one of his strongest: He won the first five of seven events, placed second in the eighth event, and clinched the title in the tour's ninth of eleven events. Outside caught up with Slater on his Australian cell phone while he was still in Spain.
O: Last year, Mick Fanning took the crown. What changed in your game plan this year?
Slater: Well, I won a lot more. I felt really calm and relaxed in a lot of clutch, critical situations. Stress and pressure from nervousness will cause bad decisions. Also, I have a lot of success when things in my personal life are great.
How does winning your ninth compare to winning your first title?
The first was just about excitement--even just winning my first event. I was surfing with all my heroes. The guys I'm surfing with now were down in the single digits when I won the first title, around four or six years old. Today, the quality of surfing has advanced. When I got started, hardly anyone on tour was doing airs. Now, if you can't do airs, you're probably one of the lower guys on the tour.
Anyone surprising in the run for second?
There's a kid named Adriano de Souza from Brazil. It's his third year on the tour. At the beginning of the year, I don't think anyone would have expected it but he's in fourth place right now. Mathematically, he has a shot at getting up into second.
Why do you dominate?
Over the years, I've really looked at all aspects of what I do--physically, mentally, emotionally. When you find awareness, you can apply it to different parts of your life. Even just being aware of hurting someone's feelings--you can clarify and rectify and open up to people. I apply that experience at a contest site. I see the ocean and notice the way the waves are breaking, which waves are the right waves to surf, and how to surf them.
Okay, so now the big question. Are you retiring next year?
You know, I tried to retire this year, at least part-time. I hate to say I got sucked in, because that's not the right way to look at it, but all signs were pointing towards the events. The idea of not doing it again sounds good to me. The idea of doing it, if it seems right, also sounds good to me. Nothing else in my life is based on making that decision, so I'm not too worried about it.