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Kelly Slater Mind-F*cks His Way to First U.S. Open Win in 15 Years

How can you not like and admire this dude?
How can you not like and admire this dude?
Nike US Open of Surfing

His fans know this. His sponsors know this. And probably more than anyone else, his competitors know this. A portion of Slater's ability to win could be credited just to his showing up.

Fans of surfing and fans of being near famous people who do things they may not understand descended on the Huntington Beach pier during the Nike U.S. Open of Surfing in startling numbers every time Slater was scheduled to be in the water. Fortunately, for fans and event organizers, that was quite frequently over the course of the nine-day event, as he advanced to the finals of the Men's draw.

On Tuesday afternoon, prior to his Round 1 heat, the media area was in shock at the early round attendance numbers. When Slater appeared from the competitor's area, an alleyway constructed of human bodies guided his path to the waterline. The buzz only increased with each round. By Sunday morning, the final day of competition, with the quarterfinals scheduled to hit the water, every inch of the 14-acres of sand reserved for the U.S. Open circus was blanketed with bodies. The aerial shots give the contest site the appearance of an ant hill in the midst of an evacuation. 


Kolohe Andino was Slater's pick as a contest-favorite.
Kolohe Andino was Slater's pick as a contest-favorite.
Nike US Open of Surfing

Slater always goes big, and rarely goes home early.
Slater always goes big, and rarely goes home early.
Nike US Open of Surfing

​The finals was also classic Slater, who's been known to mind-f--k his opponents before they even enter the line-up. He once whispered "I love you, man," into the ear of a bitter rival before a title-determining heat at Pipeline. On Sunday, he walked up to the remaining competitor, Yadin Nicol--an Australian and a surprise to advance to the final--hugged him and said "good luck." Sportsmanship or gamesmanship, you decide.

While Slater paddled into and caught most any wave he desired, Nicol sat beyond Slater, and waited. And waited. And waited. Nicol spent more than 25 minutes of the 30 minute heat waiting. By the time he caught his first wave, which was a close-out set wave, netting a 0.77, Slater had accumulated a two-wave score of 16.27. The final winning margin, 16.27 to 2.57 was one of the most lopsided finals ever recorded.

Fitzgibbons is cute as a button and explosive on her forehand.
Fitzgibbons is cute as a button and explosive on her forehand.
Nike US Open of Surfing

​"I guess Yadin wanted me to win because he didn't catch any waves," Slater said afterward.

Slater's U.S. Open win was his first since 1996, when he beat Shane Beschen

In the women's event, 20-year-old Australian, Sally Fitzgibbons, who finished the year as the runner-up for the world title, held off Lakey Peterson, who was a wildcard entry into the event. Peterson, who's just 16 and from Santa Barbara, made quite a name for herself in the event, winning the Junior division and defeating the newly crowned world champ, Carissa Moore, in the semifinals. She also eliminated local star Courtney Conlogue in the quarterfinals.

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