Kelly Slater, surfing's Wunderkind who saw his 1993 chances for consecutive world tour championships slip from his fingers, is back in the hunt for a '94 world crown with a March 6 victory at San Diego County's Seaside Reef in Cardiff, says Rockin' Fig.
Slater looked loose, strong, fast and unstoppable, said Fig, who, as an announcer for the U.S. Bud Tour, scopes out pro talent on a regular basis. Last year, a knee injury and Slater's busy schedule, which included his acting job on "Baywatch," were a lot to contend with, Fig said.
There were people who criticized the popular champion that he was cruising last year.
At Seaside Reef, Figgy said, Slater pulled a backside 360. He got a long ride when an outside wave continued to the inside section, and he scored some big maneuvers before blasting the shore break with an incredible backside 360.
This is good news for Slater watchers. Slater has now warmed up at two U.S. Bud Tour contests, in Santa Cruz (ninth place) and Seaside, and, with the tour scheduled for Huntington Beach from May 11 through 15, there's a chance we may see Slater in local waters to protect his current No. 1 Bud Tour rating. The Bud Tour is part of the World Qualifying Series.
I was talking to Slater on the stage after he won at Seaside , and he said that this year he's really amped and wants to sharpen his tour performances. He quit "Baywatch" this year , and he's really making a strong move with two early season performances right off the bat, before the world tour starts.
Second place at Seaside went to Rob Machado, the Bud Tour's defending champion, who lives in Cardiff. Third was Richie Collins of Newport Beach, Figgy noted.
That makes Richie No. 2 in the ratings, behind Slater. This could be Richie's year for the Bud Tour. He is still coming off a back injury, and hopefully it won't give him problems.
Ted Robinson of Manhattan Beach won Seaside's long-boarding contest. Figgy said that's two victories in a row for Robinson. But two Orange County long boarders, Josh Baxter and Jeff Krammer, both of San Clemente, were right behind, placing second and third, respectively.
Seen socializing at Seaside were top shapers Al Merrick, Rusty Preisendorfer and Gary Linden.
They were checking out their boys, guys like Machado who surf for Merrick, and Pat O'Connell and Jeff Deffenbaugh, who surf for Rusty.
Fig also said that the Assn. of Surfing Professionals' head judge, Renato Hinkel, had a stint on the judge's panel for the Seaside event.
Visitors: The Australian national team was in town during February and was hosted by Orange County surfing families, said Janice Aragon, executive director for the Huntington Beach-based National Scholastic Surfing Assn.
Benefit: Les Perry's surf-music radio program on KWIZ-FM (96.7) is sponsoring a Surf Jam '94 at 4 p.m. March 27 at the Lakewood Hop to benefit the show. Featured artists include the Chantays, who had the hit "Pipeline." Hal Jepsen surf films will also be shown. Admission $10.
Signings: Surfing pioneer Mike Doyle, who is out with a new book, "Morning Glass," will visit Hobie Sports in Dana Point on Saturday for a book signing from 9 to 11 a.m.