As every surfer knows by now, Kelly Slater last week became the oldest in addition to the youngest surfer ever to win the Pipe Masters in Hawaii.
He was days from his 50th when he smashed the Pipe barrier, 30 years after he first took that crown.
Everyone wonders how a kid who had never seen an overhead wave for much of his youth could dominate, surfing backside on one of the most dangerous waves in the world.
Of course, there are all these unseen factors of genetics, but notice you’ve never seen him with a pot belly, shaking off a hangover or stumbling from a smoke-filled car.
He is serious and focused, and he likes to win.
I first became aware of Slater in his early teens when he and our own Rob Machado were melting the performance bar.
Equally matched in ability, Slater was a regular foot and Machado a goofy.
The other thing that seems to have separated them was the need to win. Where Rob could shrug off a loss, go home, surf his home break and play his guitar, Kelly lived to win, devouring opponents, some, like Rob, who were his close friends.
That said, I wonder if Slater’s latest Pipe victory has ignited the long dormant fire in Machado’s hard-as-nails gut.
Man, it would be great to see him take down some of the up-and-comers. Well, Rob?
These surfers and others from Taylor Steele’s “Momentum Generation,” changed the track surfing was on, made it vertical, steep and deep.
Prior to their arrival, Curren and Occy blazed new trails. Before them it was Shaun, MR, Buttons and Bertlemann.
Before them, the door breakers were Gerry Lopez, Jock Sutherland, David Nuuhiwa, Nat Young and Wayne Lynch.
That was my generation, ’60s surfers who snapped the straight line with hard turns, cutbacks and a move we then called the rollercoaster.
Among that crew was Joyce Hoffman. Joyce liberated women’s surfing in a way that hadn’t been done for centuries, when Chiefess Kelea ruled the waves and abdicated a throne to ride them.
While surfing had once been practiced in equal numbers by men and women, by the time Joyce came to power, the sport of kings was dominated primarily by young men.
A “surfer girl” at the time could be any female with blond hair who simply hung out in the sand. Not Joyce.
If there were waves to be had, she was out there, turning hard, noseriding and winning every event she entered until a young girl named Margo brought in yet another new era.
A couple of weeks ago a statue of Joyce Hoffman was unveiled in Dana Point amid the forms of other legends from that region, including Phil Edwards, Hobie Alter, Bruce Brown and John Severson.
Like Slater and Machado, each of the surfers made major contributions to the ocean sports culture.
Joyce was there, beneath the shadow of the bronze that represents her.
The statue is elegant and does Joyce justice. Unlike Hoffman, however, it does not move in ways that change the world.