In all seriousness, can you imagine Tiger Woods teeing off at your local Tour Qualifying Tournament? Or Serena Williams knocking a couple over the net on the WTA 125s? How about Lewis Hamilton cutting hot laps around your local go-kart track?
No? Yes? Maybe?
Well, I can. But the notion is almost farcical.
That’s because many elite athletes who dominate their chosen sport would most likely regard competing in the lower tiers unnecessary, if only for the sole reason that if they’re already performing at the highest echelons of their discipline, there’s really no requirement for them to drop down a peg.
And given that Kelly Slater has already been gifted an injury wildcard for next year and announced 2019 would be his final go around on the Tour, one could argue there’s really no apparent incentive for him to surf in this WQS event either.
So… that begs the question.
Why is Mr. Jimmy Slade, 11x world titleholder and irreproachable sage of the waves, choosing to make his comeback from injury to the VISSLA Sydney Surf Pro in Manly on March 18th?
Well for starters, Slater saying that this year will be his last year on tour don’t carry much water. He’s said that pretty much every year since 2008.
And c’mon… this is Kelly Slater we’re talking about. A man who’s known for playing his cards close to his chest. A man who’s so adept at mind games that he’s got the whole world convinced he doesn’t play ’em, which is the biggest mind game of them all.
So, given his nature, I don’t think it’s too farfetched to suggest that the reason why Slater is surfing in the VISSLA Sydney Surf Pro is that he’s giving himself every chance possible to requalify for 2020 if (or should we say when) the desire strikes him.
But I’m just speculating here, folks. In the presser, which you can read below, it seems his reason for attending is partly nostalgic and partly a desire for some super happy good times.
“I’ve always loved the northern beaches and having lived part-time in Avalon for 15 years, I miss it and am looking forward to getting back to some old familiar territory. I’m also getting a nice warmup prior to jumping back on tour full-time after close to a year and a half hiatus from competition”, said Slater.
“Manly became a mainstay for a number of years on tour. There’s a lot of history dating back to surfing being introduced at Freshwater some hundred years ago by Duke and many years later hosting some classic events with legendary performances by Larry Blair and Wayne Lynch. The more recent years have shown some serious highlights for tour surfers such as Julian Wilson and as a jumpstart for rookies and us grinders looking to stamp their mark on the start of the year. It should be a fun week”.
But it makes you wonder, doesn’t it?
If Slater was to surf like he did circa 2011, requalify for next year and do so fully intact, do you think he could overcome the young guns with his concrete rail surfing, superhuman tube riding and tactical know-how to become a serious title threat?
Food for thought.
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