He’s the best competition surfer there’s ever been, but veteran Kelly Slater missed out on a spot in the inaugural Olympics surfing competition at Tokyo 2020.
The 47-year-old, the record 11-time world champion, lost in the semifinals of the Billabong Pipe Masters in Hawaii to hand countryman John John Florence the final spot on the two-man US team for next year’s event.
Florida’s Slater, who dominated professional surfing between 1992 and 2011, needed to win the contest at the infamous Banzai Pipeline on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii to make the team, but fell short as Hawaii’s Florence joins California’s Kolohe Andino on the US men’s roster.
Carissa Moore and Caroline Marks will represent the US in the women’s competition.
The 27-year-old Florence, who won world titles in 2016 and 2017, opened the door for Slater to qualify after losing in the quarterfinals in his first event back since a long-term knee injury.
Despite his defeat by Brazilian Italo Ferreira, who went on to clinch his first world title with overall victory at Pipeline, Slater sealed surfing’s Triple Crown for the best surfer over the final three events of the season — the Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa, the Vans World Pro at Sunset Beach and the Pipe Masters.
Slater, who previously won the Triple Crown in 1995 and 1998, is both the youngest and oldest world surfing champion at 20 and 39 respectively.
The Olympics surfing contest is set to take place at Tsurigasaki beach near Ichinomiya on the Pacific coast of Chiba.