Kelly Slater won his record-extending 11th world surfing championship at the Rip Curl Pro Search in San Francisco, sealing the title in the U.S. for the first time.
Slater, 39, guaranteed that he’ll finish atop the 2011 Association of Surfing Professionals World Title Rankings by advancing out of the third round of the tour’s next-to-last event yesterday.
The Cocoa Beach, Florida-born Slater, who is professional surfing’s youngest and oldest world champion, clinched the title on the one-year anniversary of the death of three-time winner Andy Irons, his former rival and friend.
“Someone’s looking over us and it’s probably Andy,” Slater said in a televised interview. “What are the chances that I do this on the anniversary of Andy’s passing away? In a way it makes this a lot more special. It’s a way to celebrate my memories of him.”
In a career spanning 20 years, Slater has won a record 48 events on surfing’s elite tour and more than $3 million in prize money. His first title came in 1992.
Slater, who turns 40 in three months, has three wins and two runner-up finishes on the ASP’s 11-event schedule this year with the current competition and the Dec. 8-20 Billabong Pipeline Masters in Hawaii remaining.
“I feel like I’m surfing at the highest level of my career and I feel like I can keep going,” Slater added. “In the past, you would top out once you hit 30, but that’s definitely not the case now. We’ll see what 2012 brings to the table.”