- 06 April 2011 | Surfing
Kelly Slater returned to South West Australia in winning form for the Telstra Drug Aware Pro, at Margaret River.
The highly anticipated comeback is historic. The last time Slater competed here was in 1993, when he only had one world surfing title.
This time, Slater did just enough to finish in first place ahead of relative unknown qualifiers Billy Stairmand, from New Zealand, Gony Zubizarreta, Spain, and Brazilian David do Carmo, to advance to the Round of 48.
But, the US star was in trouble and almost got eliminated, as he placed third for the majority of the heat. In the final minutes, Kelly locked in his highest scoring wave of the heat, showing that trademark style and freaky repertoire that marks him as one of the world’s undisputed sporting greats.
"There wasn't a lot of waves and there was some hassling going down", said Slater. "It's tricky with 4 guys fighting for 2 wave sets. I wasn't too worried though, I just needed a wave. I only needed a six and if I can't get a six on an open faced wave I shouldn't be here."
Slater’s two-wave combined total of 12.36, saw him progress comfortably to the next round. Current world number 17 Matt Wilkinson had a close call in his heat up against Brazilian prodigy Gabriel Medina and former World Junior Champion Maxime Huscenot.
"When it's this inconsistent you just have to try to pick the best waves," said Wilkinson. "I had a slow start, but I knew that after I got that one good score I could just get an average back-up and try to put the pressure on the others."
With a massive four-to-five metre swell expected to hit the Margaret River region within the coming 24 hours, surf fans are in for a treat with all surfers, Slater included, preparing for conditions rarely seen outside of Hawaii.
"I looked at the maps this morning and it looks big," said Slater. "It's probably going to peak at 20 foot waves with 30 foot faces. I don't know what board I'm going to ride yet, I just show up and check the conditions. The sets could be 20 foot, but I might want to be on the 8 foot in-betweeners. I do generally try to ride the smallest boards possible though."