Kelly Slater Will Retire, And Other Outlandish Predictions For 2015 – Sean Doherty On...

30 Mar 2015 2 Share

Sean Doherty

Senior Writer

Seano has predicted that 17 year old Italian Leo Fioravanti will be the first Italian in your Fantasy Surfing team by 2016. What do you think? Photo: Timo / Surfing World

Seano has predicted that 17 year old Italian Leo Fioravanti will be the first Italian in your Fantasy Surfing team by 2016. What do you think? Photo: Timo / Surfing World

This article was first published in the latest issue of Surfing World, April 2015 with the title Zoltar Speaks – On Sale Now

10. Kelly Slater Will Retire

Well, when I say, “retire”, he’ll “retire” in much the same way a zombie, or John Farnham retires. You can bet he’ll be surfing the 2020 Pipe Masters – most likely winning it – but this will be the last year we see Kelly full time on tour. You don’t get 25 years for murder these days, but yet here is Kelly still turning up to uninspiring events in Brazil and Portugal 25 years after first turning up there as a prodigiously talented, wide-eyed and luxuriously hirsute kid. After all these years the reasons he is still here are clear. Because he can. Because he’s been told he can’t. Because at 43 he’s not only still relevant, he’s still The Dude. Because he knows his surfing will suffer without being regularly sharpened against kids half his age. Because he knows he’s got a unique opportunity to see how far surfing can go. Because he surfed that heat against John John at Teahupoo and because he stuck that 540. But he’s hung around mostly because the tour is still his, his stage, even when he doesn’t win. There’s a compelling argument there for him to just keep on rolling on. But what happens if Kelly is rated ninth at the end of this year, or worse? He’s let perfect stage-left exits slip through his fingers at Pipeline over the past three years, falling a single heat short on each occasion from winning one last World Title and going out on top. The thing is, the most illuminating surfer of all-time simply cannot fade out – it delaminates the narrative he’s created – but with the rise of John and Gabby, the Hollywood ending on the beach at Pipe is looking less and less likely. There are matters of dignity and legacy at stake here and Kelly Slater needs to go out on top. Surfing owes him that.

* Several sentences in the above paragraph may have been cut and pasted from my 2006 Pro Surfing Predictions column.

Will Kelly Slater retire like Whispering Jack did? By Not really retiring at all? Photo: Maassen / Surfing World

Will Kelly Slater retire like Whispering Jack did? By Not really retiring at all? Photo: Maassen / Surfing World


9. God Will Finally Change The World Tour

I watched that Stephen Fry clip the other day, the one where he calls out God for all the monstrousness he inflicts on his faithful flock. “Bone cancer in children? What’s all that about? How dare you!” Well, he needed to continue with, “A guy can lose twice in a professional surfing event and still win? What’s all that about? How the f*ck is that fair?” Thing is, Stephen Fry and you and I all know pro surfing must change. I’m running the risk of flogging a dead ’orse here – blah blah too bloated… blah blah too bland – but enough is enough. The contest format of CT events – a turducken designed by competing interests over several decades – has continually proved unworkable, unwatchable and downright unlovable, and when the new owners of pro surfing inherited it, it wasn’t expected to last long. The new owners were savvy TV types, and they were expected to remodel pro surfing into a made-for-the masses TV spectacle. But here we are in 2015, the third year of the new owner’s watch and the biggest change to the game we’ve seen is them playing Scrabble with their name. We’re still being subjected to meaningless, early round non-elimination heats between anonymous journeymen, confusing everyone and wasting the best surf of the waiting period. Bring me a story. Bring me some theatre. Have a point. With their aggregated viewing numbers seeming to have dropped a zero somewhere, the franchise will surely get a reboot this year, making it slicker, simpler, something that Stephen Fry can comprehend while still capturing the true essence of surfing.


8. More 7'10"s Will Be Shaped And Surfed This Year Than Ever Before

Last year we eulogised tow surfing. The water donkeys had fallen silent, gathering dust in garages around the world. Tow surfing – unless it was performed in some code-freaking-black shit – suddenly became horribly uncool. Tow surfing became tantamount to cheating. In its place, big-wave surfing was reborn, reverting back to its purest form – man against the elements, man against wave… man with giant surfboard in his garage. And now we see all types of men – pimply teenagers, the middle-aged and the geriatric, women – suddenly all becoming Big-Wave Daves. They’ve watched in awe at surfers at Peahi (only tow surfers call it Jaws, man) paddling giant phallic surfboards over the ledge and connecting with the most primal of surfing experiences. They’ve watched it, drained a protein shake, and figured if Shane Dorian can do it so can they. Suddenly there’s a whole Big Wave Dave movement going down. It makes sense on a societal level. In this bubble-wrapped world where the most dangerous thing to your wellbeing is sitting down for too long, Big Wave Dave is reconnecting with his antediluvian urge to go mammoth hunting. Dave is heading down to his local shaper and ordering a 7’10”, waiting patiently for his day to arrive, the day of days at his local break… and paddling his 7’10” heroically out into life and death six-footers.

7. An Italian Will Qualify For The World Tour

A pie graph showing the breakup of nationalities represented on tour used to show half of them were Australian, a quarter Hawaiian and a quarter American, and wedged between them somewhere was a slither of pie so thin that the label “Others” had to be written somewhere else on the page with an arrow pointed to it. Well, guess what? The Others are taking over. At the end of 2014 the World Champ is Brazilian, a Tahitian is in the top five, and a Kiwi and an Irishman are making their tour debuts. It sounds like the start of a joke and it is… a joke the rest of the world is playing on us! Australia invented pro surfing, goddamn it, we deserve half the spots on tour. And if we’d told you a decade ago there’d be an Italian on tour, well, you’d have asked how many blue ‘shrooms we’d eaten. But last year, 17-year-old Italian Leo Fioravanti went within a single result of qualifying for the World Tour. Now, this Italian might speak English better than you and me and has lived in France, California and on the Gold Coast, but he grew up in Rome and he likes conquering things. His qualification campaign hasn’t had a textbook start – he broke his back at Pipe – but he’s still every chance of qualifying this year and making the tour a real Star Wars bar of nationalities and requiring Les Murray to join the WSL commentary panel just to handle all these foreign names.

6. The Most Influential Surf This Year Will Be

John John Florence, but you already know that. So essentially this is an exercise in nominating the second-most influential surfer in the world, and, well, we only had to walk a few houses down the beach from John’s house to find him. Jamie O’Brien is threatening sacrilege… he is on the verge of making the North Shore seem like fun. He’s almost singlehandedly turned those seven miles of beat-downs and hold-downs and latent menace into Luna Park. He’s riding hot pink soft-tops at 12-foot Pipeline, making a mockery of the place’s hardass rep, in the process proving that surfing should be fun wherever you do it. So long dogged and defined by controversy – “Brah, that shit followed me around for years” – he’s finally broken free of it and you sense he’s surfing lighter. While most crew will look at John and Dane for the wildest performance breakthroughs this year, don’t surprised if it happens to come from Jamie O’Brien.

Part 2, With Sean's predictions for the 2015 World Champions Will go live Thursday morning.

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