YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

The World Still Is Slater's

He clinches record eighth championship in Spain with two events left in the season.

October 14, 2006|Pete Thomas | Times Staff Writer

Kelly Slater on Friday wrapped up another world title, his eighth, and to those who follow pro surfing the news is about as surprising as the tide coming in each day.

Slater, 34, is the sport's most dominant athlete, nemesis of many who would have won championships had their careers occurred in another era.

The two primary questions in the wake of No. 8 are the same ones asked after No. 7: Will Slater finally retire and turn the tour over to others? And if not, will somebody on tour become a viable threat to Slater's dominance?

The answer to both, it seems, is maybe.

Slater, who earned the crown based on points after his semifinal victory over Joel Parkinson at the Billabong Pro Mundaka in Spain, says he has thought seriously about retirement but still feels a strong "dedication" to the tour.

"I still have to figure that out," he said.

In the final, Slater was defeated by Bobby Martinez, a World Championship Tour rookie from Santa Barbara whom many tab as a future champion.

"This is a feeling that doesn't feel real," Martinez, 24, said. "To have it come against the best that ever set foot in the sport? I was thankful just to be out there with him after he had won his eighth."

Martinez and Slater are the only surfers on tour with two wins apiece, through nine of 11 events.

Slater, however, took a commanding points lead into the contest based on three second-place and three third-place finishes.

"This has definitely been my most consistent year," he said. "I've just been cruising and having fun and haven't put so much pressure on myself."

Only one other surfer, Australia's Mark Richards, has won as many as four world titles in the 30-year history of the Assn. of Surfing Professionals. Tom Curren and Andy Irons won three.

Slater might have a third of all titles won had he not gone on hiatus after winning five consecutive championships from 1994 to '98. (He won his first in 1992 when he was 20, becoming the youngest champion.)

He returned in 2002, but it took a while to regain his drive and intensity. Irons won three titles from 2002 to '04, but Slater won his seventh in 2005, becoming the tour's oldest champion.

In the final against Martinez, Slater seemed distracted by the celebratory hoopla, but it was a spirited heat, with the surfers combining to ride 17 waves.

Martinez opened with a 7.0 and later scored an 8.83 out of a possible 10 to put him well ahead early in the best-two-waves format.

Slater surged late, scoring a 6.60 and a 7.67, but that was as close as he could get.

The win boosted Martinez to No. 6 in the rankings, which will requalify him for 2007. "I'm just living the moment right now," he said.

Los Angeles Times Articles