by Corky Carroll
Last Sunday became a monster day in the surfing history book. Mark it, February 6, 2022. Kelly Slater at the age of 49 (just five days shy of his 50thbirthday) won the Billabong Pipeline Pro for the 8th time. He did it in convincing fashion too, scoring two near perfect rides with a heat total of 18.77 out of 20. The first time he won it was 30 years ago. He is now both the youngest and oldest to have won this event.
It came in big and kinda gnarly conditions against a kid less than half his age, a north shore charger named Seth Moniz. Adding to that is that Kelly had competed against Seth’s father, Tony Moniz, many years earlier. Just think of how many guys much younger than Kelly that have come and gone with great careers in the books, and yet this dude just keeps on going. And doing THIS. Amazing. My wife, jokingly so don’t take this seriously please, says it must be some secret wonder drug. Hey, if so, then gimme some of that. No, gimme a lot of that.
I had been following the results of the event and knew that Kelly Slater had made it to the quarter-finals, and was in the first heat. I have known him since he was a small kid and (patting myself on the back) had predicted he would one day be World Champ when I was announcing a final heat in Florida when he was like 10 and winning the Menehune division. So, I always try and follow to see how he is doing. Wondering if it was on or not, I kicked back in my lazy boy and cranked up my steam powered old laptop and dialed up the link. Wow, there it was. And just getting ready to start. Kelly totally nailed that first heat over a local Huntington Beach kid, Kanoa Igarashi. Kanoa was born in Japan but grew up and lives in Orange County and is a fantastic surfer. This was kinda one of those moments when you want both of them to win, even though only one can. After that for the next few hours I was glued to the screen as I watched all of the quarter finals, semifinals and the final. It was an amazing show with mind blowing great surfing. The heat where Seth Moniz beat out John John Florance was breathtaking. Man, these guys can really surf.
The final heat itself was all Slater. For the beginning portion not much happened. Both surfers took close outs and no scores of any matter. Then Kelly blew up with a screaming right barrel that got him a 9. (zero to ten scale). Moniz was not able to match it, or anything close. But Kellys second score (its best two rides) was only a one point something, so the door was still open. Until he put it away with an incredible fear drop deep covered back door that netted him the 9.77. At that point it was over. History was made. Nobody can say this guy is not the greatest surfer of all time, he is.
After it was over I was sitting there feeling kind of excited that this was truly an historical moment in surfing and happy that I had been able to watch it. Then I got a message from my old pal Gerry Lopez, “Mr. Pipeline” himself and a former winner of this event. He said, “remember when it was us out there?” I had to smile big when I read that. It has been 50 years since I was in this contest. I messaged him back saying that if I could get one of the rides that these guys were scoring even a 7 or 8 on I would be screaming at the judges that it should actually be a 300. He laughed, I laughed, and so it goes with two old dinos who had their day.
Congratulations Kelly Slater. You ARE the G.O.A.T.