It was a matter of his vast experience, combined with timely good fortune, coming to light.
“I mean, I think of it kind of like a martial art — you don’t get worse as you get older, you get more experienced,” said Slater, who also happens to be a beginner golfer.
It was the surfing equivalent of winning at Pebble Beach.
“I’m 50, but I see it more like I have almost 40 years of experience on this wave and I’m able to take advantage of the times I’ve had here before and be confident in that” , Slater said.
Yet the victory was surreal, even for him.
“Indescribable, indescribable,” he says. “A lifetime of dedication to one thing and it all comes together in a moment like this, I don’t know how you compare it to anything else.”
In his years of catching waves, he’s seen the sport explode in popularity. The win comes just six months after surfing made its Olympic debut. In keeping with the ethos of a true action sports star, part of him loves exposure and another is reluctant.
Sometimes, however, it’s better to ride where the wave takes you.
“I guess we all feel kind of funny about any kind of mainstream thing with surfing,” Slater said. “We want it to be a sport, we want it to have an outlet and get paid for it and everything. But at the same time, we all feel so passionate about it that we want it to still be a bit sacred and secret and special.