Tubthumping with Kelly Slater
Arguably overshadowing his spoiler role at Pipeline was Kelly's Round 3 board wrangle this afternoon. Surfing against Filipe, twelve minutes on the clock and a five point lead, Slater looked to seal the result. Pulling under the hood of a jacking left he disappeared from view, for one section, then another section, finally coming out behind the second spit.
Instead of a nose wipe claim Slater rode out the closeout shrugging his shoulders, palms upturned in a gesture of surprise. "How did that happen?"
We wondered the same at home. And the score? Had to be high nines.
Just press play, Slater's remount has been timestamped for your pleasure
Yet the first view was deceiving. The channel angle showed Kelly getting bucked from his board, desperately lunging for it while inside the barrel, somehow regathering it before jumping to his feet as the second spit smoke bombed the scene.
Incredible recovery, yet an incomplete move.
It was similar to another incident, also by Slater though this time at Trestles back in 2015. During a backside air the board disengaged from his feet yet it kept rotating through the move so he landed on it knees down in a crouch, jumping to his feet in the whitewash. For that he was awarded 4.17 points.
Writing for Surfline about the Trestles wave, Sam George gave the judges both barrels:
The score, wrote a clearly livid Sam, "was perhaps the most ludicrous judging decision ever made in the modern competitive surfing era", while the move itself was "one of the greatest displays of surfing mastery ever witnessed."
Slater’s ride, trembled Sam, "represents everything competitive surfing should be." Meaning risky, dextrous, and spontaneous.
Ol' Sam wasn't the only one outraged, in fact there was enough enmity from fans for then head judge Richie Porta to front the cameras. "These are the best surfers in the world," said Richie emphatically. "They have to complete these maneuvers."
Back to Slater today...
It could be argued that, technically speaking, Slater did complete the tube. Though the judges disagreed and gave him just 3.07 points. Somewhere Sam George was yelling at his monitor.
But take all the competition points out of it, the arbitrary criteria too, and Slater's wave was one of the most entertaining and astonishing waves ridden all day.
What he did was risky, dextrous, and spontaneous.
Fortunately it made no difference to the result.