Before competitions, the winningest surfer in the sport's history is a drag. Kelly Slater is too focused, too intense. His face is frozen that way, a robotic stare.
It even got to the point Friday night before the final day of the Hurley Pro Trestles event held at San Onofre State Beach that Kelly Slater apologized to his girlfriend.
"Sorry I'm in this head space," Slater said he told her, "but this is where I'm at and I just have to work my way through it."
On Saturday, the nine-time Assn. of Surfing Professionals world champion cured whatever ailed him, winning the Hurley Pro and its $105,000 first place prize.
"I feel great, on top of the world," Slater said.
Fitting words, since the win, which came after he defeated Australian Bede Durbidge in the final (18.13 to 14.13), vaulted Slater to the ASP world ranking's top spot.
And since Trestles, the sixth of 10 ASP World Tour events (and the only stop in North America), is considered the tour's turning point, Slater's 10th world title seems assured.
"Obviously, it's there to look at and talk about, but there's a lot of work left," he said.
His final day of competition here started easy enough. The opponent in his first heat stayed in bed, sick, so Slater surfed the ocean without worry.
"The free surf was actually nice because I was a little nervous for that heat and I didn't feel solid," Slater said. "It was nice to just surf some waves and see how the judges were going to score me."
From there, the Florida native edged two Australians — Owen Wright and reigning world and Hurley Pro champion Mick Fanning — to reach the final, where he faced Durbidge, the world's No. 8-ranked surfer.
Durbidge, meanwhile, beat former No. 1 Jordy Smith in the quarterfinals and Dane Reynolds in the semis to advance, doing so, he said, by scoring to pressure his opponents.
That didn't work against Slater.
"He can get out of any situation where other guys … change their mind-set and they start surfing differently," Durbidge said. "Kelly's not like that at all. He knows what it takes to win and he'll do whatever it takes."
Slater led with two high scores early, and as time wound down, he pulled into "probably the biggest wave I caught all week" and surfed an impressively deep barrel ride that got the crowd roaring and gave him a 9.53 out of 10, virtually sealing his victory.
"It was a magic moment for me," said Slater, who was carried off the beach with the American flag draped around his shoulders.
For Slater, it was his 43rd elite tour win, his fourth here, and his first on a board he designed himself on a computer.
"It's the first board that I've designed from the ground up," he said, "so it feels nice to have a win on it."