Kelly Slater winning his 11th ASP World Title. Photo courtesy of Steve Sherman and Quiksilver.

Late Fall and early Winter always bring with it the best swells for professional surfing, which in turn results in epic performances by the top surfers in the world. Yesterday was one such historic day as Kelly Slater clinched his 11th Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) World Title at the Rip Curl Pro Search at the chilly location of Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

The event isn’t over yet, but Slater only had to win two heats to take the coveted title, yet again. Spanning two decades of wins, Slater has won first as the youngest ASP World Champion and now as the oldest ASP World Champ at the age of 39.
“The 10th World Title seemed harder to me and felt like a 2 year journey-really it felt like a 20 year journey to get to the 10th. This year that was done, and I could put it in the past. And there were questions about the 11th but it didn’t symbolize what 10 did for people. This year was a little bit under the radar and I felt like I started off fresh.” said Kelly.

“Part of it is people always talk about my age and, you know, I’m 39, almost 40, and to me that’s literally just a number. You can prove people wrong and stay super healthy. I don’t see why at 50 I can’t be in better shape than I am now. If anything, I’d like to try to represent that to people. I eat well and I talk about it and I walk the walk and it shows in my ability physically.”

Other highlights at the Rip Curl Pro include Dusty Payne’s near run in with a shark. In an interview on Grind TV, Payne said, it was “the biggest fin I’ve ever seen in my life coming at me.” Payne was competing against South Africa’s Jordy Smith, who remained in the water long enough to easily win the heat.

Miguel Pupo (BRA), 19, took two heat wins at the Rip Curl Pro Search San Francisco today. Photo by ASP/Cestari

Just a few days previous, there was a shark attack in nearby Monterey. Overall, the area is known for sharks during this time of the year, which has made many people question why the ASP chose this location for an event at this time. There has been speculation in general about more ASP surfing events, the so-called “Dream Tour” being in places that are not necessarily dreamlike, such as Long Beach near NYC, and Ocean Beach in San Francisco. Clearly there’s a move to host events near large population centers, thus attracting more people and potential sponsors.

As Matt Warshaw wrote in Surfer Magazine in an article Waking from the Dream, “%u2026the changes on this year’s schedule have me wondering if the whole “Dream Tour” concept needs to be retired, too. Quiksilver proved that it can still swing for the fences, promo-wise, by staking a record-breaking million-dollar purse for its debut Quiksilver Pro New York contest this September -but make it ten million, and it doesn’t change the fact that Long Island isn’t anybody’s idea of a dream surf destination.

“ASP officials -or rather, the Big Four surf companies who run the show -are again courting the Lollapalooza-style beachfront megacrowd, hoping, as always, to nudge pro surfing’s marker a space or two forward on the Chutes and Ladders gameboard of mainstream acceptance. You don’t go to New York to ride waves. You go to get rich and famous. Quiksilver CEO Bob McKnight isn’t even pretending that his new contest is about good surf. The point of the exercise, he says, is to take the sport to the “largest media arena in the world.” And the focus won’t just be on surfing, but “skate, BMX, fashion, art and music” -meaning a village-sized aggregation of tents, booths, ramps, stages, speakers, video screens, and food concessions -which in turn will bring “incredible global attention to the action sports culture and lifestyle.” This is how you talk to the regional buyer for Macy’s, not the coffee-reeking guy hunched over his computer at night watching the semifinals at J-Bay. You know what “action sports culture and lifestyle” means to that guy? What it means to me? Chest-high and blown out.”

That being said, as more mega-events are trying to happen in surfing (see also our story on the Nike U.S. Open in Huntington Beach), women’s professional surfing is struggling to find sponsorship and therefore canceling events -there’s no Vans Triple Crown for them this year.

The ASP Rip Curl Pro Search is still on for a few more days before moving to the final events in Hawaii for the Vans Triple Crown series including Pipeline.

Stay tuned for more as we cover the final days of the 2011 surfing World Tour season.