Kelly Slater dedicates title to Irons
Kelly Slater after winning his record 10th ASP world surfing title in Puerto Rico. Photo: AP
Surfing king Kelly Slater found the perfect way to highlight his incredible career and then dedicated it to rival and friend Andy Irons who died last week.
Slater marked his unprecedented 10th world title victory with a 10 out 10 wave score to also win the Rip Curl Pro Search event in Puerto Rico on Saturday.
The 38-year-old American has set a championship mark that may never be bettered, and in doing so joins the likes of Tiger Woods, Michael Schumacher, Michael Phelps, Lance Armstrong and Roger Federer as part of sporting royalty.
But an emotional Slater's thoughts remained with three-time world champion Irons who died in a Dallas-Forth Worth airport hotel room while reportedly battling illness and trying get home to Hawaii from the Puerto Rico event.
"I just want to send my condolences to Andy's family, I'm a little overwhelmed right now but I want to dedicate this to Andy," said Slater.
"It's like exact opposites. This doesn't really offset that, I'd give this title away in a second if Andy could come back."
Slater sealed his 10th crown when he destroyed Brazilian Adriano De Souza with a combined wave score of 18.87 in the quarter-finals.
The Floridian then resisted the temptation to crack open the champagne, and re-focused to pip Taj Burrow in the semis and then save his best for last against another Australian Bede Durbidge in the final.
In front of thousands of ecstatic fans at Middles Beach in the Aguadilla region of Puerto Rico, Slater capped off a memorable day with a perfect 10 ride to sink Durbidge and win his first ever Rip Curl Search.
Slater said he'd reached complete satisfaction as an athlete.
"Yeah I think so. To come out and win the contest today and cap it off, getting a little bit of Stephanie Gilmore inspiration there," said Slater in reference to Gilmore who won the women's title and event double days earlier.
"Stephanie was drinking champagne and then went out and still smashed everyone, but I didn't drink, I still stayed focused.
"It's pretty amazing ... that wave just sat up perfectly and I wasn't thinking I was going to get a 10 in those conditions."
After beginning his professional career way back in 1991, Slater wasted little time achieving success, claiming his first championship in 1992.
The surfing icon then won consecutive crowns from 1994 through to 1998, before carrying his dominance through a second decade by taking out titles in 2005, 2006 and 2008.
And now he's got ten.
"It means a lot of hard work, a lot of focus, a lot of years focusing on one thing and to have it come to fruition is pretty crazy," he said.
"I was a little emotional earlier but this is just what I do. It's what I strive for and to win a 10th just feels like a huge relief."
Slater was full of emotion for rival and friend Andy Irons, who tragically died last Tuesday, and dedicated his tour win to the Hawaiian three-time former champ.
While Slater takes time to think about whether he wants to aim for an 11th surfing world title, the three-handicapper revealed he wouldn't mind giving professional golf a shot.
"I've been thinking about that, I'd love to win a pro golf tournament one day," Slater said.
"I'm just going to need to think about it for a little bit. After 10 I've got to question what is there for me, and if the idea of 11 becomes appealing then I'll focus on that if not then I'll focus on the rest of my life."