Kelly Slater Wants to Surf in the Olympics. His Neighbor Is in the Way.


“If I’m feeling like, ‘Oh, I can’t wait to go out there, this is going to be awesome,’ then for sure I’m going to do it,” Florence said of competing. “But if I show up and feel super uneasy about it, just not feeling it — surfing Pipe in general, fully healthy, you have to be confident in what you’re doing.”

Florence has not won a Pipe Masters title — an aggravation, considering he grew up closer to Pipeline than anyone. In head-to-head heats with Slater, he is 2-6, including 0-3 at Pipe Masters. The last time they surfed face to face here was in the 2013 final.

Slater last won a world title in 2011, Florence’s first year on the championship tour. Slater finished second the next two seasons, but has not finished higher than seventh in the past five years, as surfing’s mantle transitioned to Florence and others, like Brazil’s Gabriel Medina.

“Three years ago we did this really cool trip to the Marshall Islands,” Florence said, a journey highlighted in the movie “Proximity.” “It was kind of right when I was getting into that mind-set of, O.K., I really want to compete, and how can I win? I was just picking his mind and asking him a million questions. He’s very competitive, so who knows if what he told me was true.”

He smiled. He won his first world title that year, then won again in 2017. The takeaway from Slater was about strategy — breaking big competitions into small pieces, building a mind-set to win each heat, one wave at a time.

A couple of miles away the next day, Slater was competing at Haleiwa Ali’i Beach Park. It was the first leg of the Triple Crown, an event mostly filled with second-level pros trying to qualify for next year’s championship tour. Slater, who would reach the semifinals, was using it to get into contest mode for Pipe Masters.


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