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On Style

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Among a certain ilk, Robert Kelly Slater is so inseparable from his legacy as a competitive nonpareil that they can’t bring themselves to praise his style. 

It’s a curious situation, freighted with regionalism, jingoism, and no small amount of jealousy. Hairs are split. In some circles, folks are careful with their words. “Greatest contest surfer,” they correct. “He’s a multi-fin native,” they’ll say. “No way he can step to a Curren or [insert 70s pintail warlord here].” 

But a funny thing happened on the way to GOATdom. And, for such a masterful student of the game, it should come as no surprise. Over the last decade, Slater has become decidedly easier on the eyes—and with zero sacrifice of his Critical Speed Theory. 

By degrees, his stance seems a little tighter, more relaxed. His crouch is looser, less “athletic.” His flourishes more organic. His affect even takes on point-purist attributes at the appropriate venues. His range, never in question in waves from 1-foot to The Eddie, has taken on a new wrinkle. In the right light, he’s looking downright classical. 

Marry that with his reads, his gift for line, his “Are you kidding me?” surprise, and all yeah-buts disappear. Whether or not he’s your favorite surfer to watch, Slater continues to find new ways to stand alone. Beauty and the Beast.

[Feature Image by Margarita Salyak]