American surfer Kelly Slater is fast becoming the Bruce Fordyce of the world championship surf circuit. Today, he clinched the ASP World Tour title for the ninth time when he won the Billabong Pro Mundaka in Spain.
The veteran, who at the age of 20 became the Association of Surfing Professionals’ youngest world champion as a tour rookie, is now also the oldest champion at the age of 36.
Although he has won 88 percent of his heats this season, Slater did not expect a full season.
“I went under the radar at Snapper Rocks (opening event in Australia),” he said. “There was so much focus on Dane (Reynolds) and Jordy (Smith), and Mick Fanning defending his world title, I was kind of sneaking around.
“I really wasn’t going to Bells (Beach), but when I won that, at that point I was thinking it was a great time to stop or just get everything in order and go for it.”
Slater’s nine world titles still put him miles ahead of Mark Richards, who is the runner-up with four.
Rumors abound that Slater’s longtime primary sponsor, Quiksilver, will offer him a $10 million bonus if he should manage another title win for the 10th time. But although he said he would love being offered that amount to come back, it is not just about the money.
“I love surfing. I love what I do,” he said.