Kelly Slater loses again -- has nine-time world champ had enough?
What's Kelly Slater's next move?
The winner of nine world titles and undeniably the greatest competitive surfer of all time could not make it beyond the second round of an ASP World Tour contest for the third time in three competitions.
The latest person to send the legend packing, during the ongoing Billabong Pro Teahupoo in Tahiti, was Basque surfer Aritz Aranburu, who is ranked No. 39 in the world and had not even won a heat during the 2009 World Tour season.
Clearly, for Slater, the desire is gone. The flame has been extinguished. It's as if the 37-year-old from Cocoa Beach, Fla., who clinched the title last year with two contests remaining, already has retired.
He said after the loss Monday afternoon (Tuesday in Tahiti): "That may have just given me an excuse for a big, long vacation."
Mathematically, with seven contests remaining, Slater could contend for the title at season's end. But he knows his chances are slim and he's not in this for anything but title No. 10, a round number with which to cap a remarkable career and retire on a positive note.
Slater said he didn't want to just "fall off the map," but he has not committed to the next competition in Brazil. It's a tough read at this point, and Slater might not have kissed off the season just yet. But here's a likely scenario: Slater will earn title No. 10, but it will happen in 2010. This year, unlike last year, the title is up for grabs.
-- Pete Thomas
Photo: Kelly Slater gets vertical on a Teahupoo left-hander. Credit: Kirstin Scholtz / ASP / CI / Getty