Putting Slater's Sunset Record Under the Microscope
“I don’t know how many more of these are going to happen," said Kelly Slater after last week's fabulous Pipeline win. "This honestly might be it, I might not show up to Sunset.”
The statement about not turning up was classic Slater mind games: keep the opposition guessing. However, it's true that Sunset has long been a thorn in Slater's side. When, in the early-nineties, he applied himself to knowing the Pipeline reef, it was at the expense of understanding Sunset.
From the sixties to the eighties, generations of big wave surfers devoted themselves to Sunset; to decoding the immense puzzle of Pau Malu. As it happened, Slater didn't have to know Sunset; the first year he surfed it in competition - 1991 - was the last time the contest was a top-tier event until after the turn of the century.
For the world title at least, Pipe is what mattered. He didn't have to show up at Sunset - and on many occasions he didn't.
Still, Slater has always considered himself a well-rounded surfer, able to compete in waves big and small, yet despite success at every other stop on the tour, he's never been chaired up the beach at Sunset.
So, riding a wave of goodwill and confidence, could this be Slater's year?
To get a bit closer to that answer we turned to the statistics.
Slater first surfed a contest at Sunset in 1991, The Hard Rock World Cup. This was prior to the CT/QS split and, as he was outside the Top 16, Slater had to surf through the trials. He got through two heats before coming last in the third, beaten by Mark Sainsbury, Mike Latronic, and Eraldo Neto from Brazil.
1991 - 57th place
Also in 1991, Slater surfed the Xcel Pro, a lower ranked contest generally considered a locals event. It was Slater's first and only showing at the Xcel, and he made it to the Semis.
1991 - 5th place
From 1992 till 2001, the Sunset event was QS rated, though it remained a part of the Triple Crown. While we have Slater's results we don't have the names of people he surfed against.
1992 - 17th place
1993 - 49th place
1994 - 9th place
1995 - 49th place
1996 - DNS
1997 - 33rd place
1998 - 3rd place
1999 - 33rd place
2000 - DNS
2001 - 55th place
In 2002, the Rip Curl Cup at Sunset was elevated to CT status. Slater was bumped in Round 3, beaten by Kalani Robb, Shane Dorian, and Luke Hitchings.
2002 - 25th place
2003 was a repeat, he made Round 3 of the Rip Curl Cup, beaten by eventual winner Jake Paterson, and Kalani Robb (again), with Manoa Drollet coming fourth.
2003 - 17th place
In 2004, Sunset again dropped to the QS and Slater only sporadically entered the contest.
2004 - 13th place
2005 - DNS
2006 - 13th place
2007 - 2011 DNS
In 2012 he again made Round 3, and was again knocked out by the eventual winner, Ace Buchan, plus Jesse Mendes.
2012 - 17th place
In 2013 he only made it to Round 2, once more knocked out by the winner, this time Alejo Muniz, plus Ezekiel Lau, and Torrey Meister.
2013 - 25th place
2014 - 2015 DNS
In 2016 Slater got past the Quarters for only the sixth time (of eighteen starts). He was knocked out in the Semis by eventual winner Jordy Smith - that's the fourth time that happened too - with Torrey Meister coming second.
2016 - 5th place
The last time Slater competed at Sunset was in 2019, making it to Round 4, where you won't be the least suprised to learn he drew eventual winner Cody Young. Also getting past him were Gatien Delahaye, and Jadson Andre.
2019 - 25th place
From eighteen starts at Sunset, Slater's average finish is 25th place. In comparison, from thirty starts in the Pipeline Masters his average finish is just beyond 4th place (4.23).
Despite saying he may not turn up at Sunset, Slater has since said that he'll be there. Will it be a case of nineteenth time the charm, or will the statistics tell the story?
PS: Slater has redrawn Barron Mamiya in his Round 1 heat.