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Kelly Slater show arrives in San Clemente

September 4, 2008 |  1:32 pm

Credit: ASP Kirstin@Covered Images

A Southern Hemisphere swell is supposed to arrive Sunday afternoon, just in time for the start of the Boost Mobile Pro surfing contest at Lower Trestles in San Clemente.

Big waves always add to the drama and excitement associated with the only Assn. of Surfing Professionals World Tour stop on the U.S. mainland, but how much drama and excitement can there be this year?

Sure, the athletes will showcase their amazing talents. But with four victories in six contests, and with only five contests remaining, Kelly Slater has all but clinched a ninth world title and could, theoretically, be wearing that crown after the following tour stop in France.

Slater, 36, has four Australians in lukewarm pursuit and none have won this year, and a quick look at the standings prompts two questions:

  —What happened to Mick Fanning, last year's champion, who is ranked No. 4 and who lost to Slater in the final at his home break, Down Under at Snapper Rocks, to start the season? Fanning has a 33rd place this year, but also two seconds. Look for Fanning to make the final at Trestles.

—And what's become of Hawaii's Andy Irons? He won three consecutive world titles from 2002 to 2004 and was labeled by many as the second coming of Slater?

Irons, who got married last November, finished last season ranked No. 6 and is currently at No. 7. His brother, Bruce, moved up to No. 10 after winning the recent Rip Curl Search. Theirs has become more of a sibling rivalry than a title chase.

The rest of the tour is made up a bunch of guys who are good enough to requalify year after year but not good enough to win a title, and a handful of promising up-and-comers.

When will this dynamic change? When Slater retires, of course. It'll be a sad day for pro surfing and mark the end of a very special era, but it will also clear the slate for others to stake their claim to surfing history.

Slater, by the way, has made the final of the Boost Mobile Pro the last four years, winning twice, including last year. To get a taste of the human phenomenon in action, check out this video and especially his seemingly endless tube ride.

—Pete Thomas