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Kelly Slater earned a record 11th Association of Surfing Professionals world title Wednesday at the 2011 Rip Curl Pro Search in San Francisco.
As offshore winds whipped the tops off of a 4 to 6 foot northwest swell at Ocean Beach, Slater made the most of the cold, demanding conditions. He tallied a heat score of 15.13, eliminating Daniel Ross by .73 to clinch his record title.
With a convincing win in his first round matchup against Kai Otton and wildcard Dean Brady Tuesday, Slater had to advance out of round three to assure himself at least ninth place, which would numerically eliminate all other would-be contenders.
"It feels like the circle has been completed," said Slater. "I knew somewhere in the back of my mind eleven was there, but I honestly don't think about twelve. I was born on 2/11 and now to win on 11/2, it's a weird coincidence and it does feel like the completion of something. It was a goal I set at the beginning of the year and luckily I got to it."
This is Slater's second consecutive ASP world title. It also comes a year to the day that three-time world champion Andy Irons died.
"I started thinking about Andy a couple days ago," told Slater. "And today, it's like he's watching over us. We had a little memorial for him today, and now the waves, the weather, it just feels like he was watching over use. Emotionally it's still a very hard thing to reconcile with."
At 39 years old Slater, who is from Cocoa Beach, Fla., has the distinction of being the youngest and oldest world champion in professional surfing. In a career that's spanned 20 years, he's won a record 48 tour events, more than $3 million in prize money and eleven world titles. His first title came in '92, and by '98 he had accrued a total of six. He then stepped away from competition for two years, returning to the tour in 2001 and winning his first "comeback" crown in 2005.
Slater began his 2011 campaign with a win at the Quiksilver Pro Australia. He would finish fifth and 13th at the next two events, respectively. Then in July, instead of traveling to South Africa for the Billabong Pro at Jeffreys Bay, he opted to chase a massive south swell to Fiji and the island of Tavarua. Figuring his season to be a wash, at that point he did not consider himself a contender for the title.
Then in early August he won the U.S. Open of Surfing, a victory that because of its ASP rating would not count in his bid for a title, but did kick start a two-month command performance. At month's end, the Billabong Pro Tahiti roared into the frontal lobe of the surfing world's conscious. Thanks to a monumental south swell, Teahupoo provided what is unanimously considered some of the best surfing the world tour has seen, and there to bask in all its glory was none other than the man himself.
Now back in the title chase -- but still a relatively distant threat -- he would go on to finish second at the Quiksilver Pro New York, and win the Hurley Pro in California (he met Australia' Owen Wright in all three finals, setting yet another ASP benchmark). Then a second place finish at the Rip Curl Pro Portugal in early October all but sealed the deal.
Sailing into San Francisco, Slater just needed "four good waves."
"Now I can go to Hawaii and really relax and not worry about my result at Pipeline," said Slater. "I'm going to really have to consider if I'm going to do the tour after this."
The Rip Curl Pro Search broke briefly to award Slater the title before competition resumed.