Slater Surfs Rio to Ranking Lead After Gucci Owner Linkup

Eleven-time world champion Kelly Slater moved to the top of the surfing rankings for the first time since dropping sponsor Quiksilver Inc. last month to start his own apparel brand with Gucci owner Kering SA.

Slater, 42, lost to Kolohe Andino of the U.S. in the semifinals to finish third yesterday at Brazil’s biggest surf contest in Rio de Janeiro. Michel Bourez of French Polynesia beat Andino to win the event.

The result moved Slater, from Coco Beach, Florida, into the lead through four of 11 legs of the World Championship Tour, which features contests from Australia’s Gold Coast to the North Shore of Hawaii.

Slater was sponsored by Huntington Beach, California-based Quiksilver for 23 years before announcing an end to the relationship on April 1.

“For years I’ve dreamt of developing a brand that combines my love of clean living, responsibility and style,” Slater, who has earned $3.4 million in prize money, said at the time.

Slater’s line will compete in an apparel market with annual sales of board shorts of more than $8 billion, according to a 2012 estimate by Billabong.

Kering’s Input

Paris-based Kering, which owns the Puma and Volcom sportswear labels, will provide Slater’s brand with assistance in operations, sales and logistics, spokeswoman Helen Saint-Raymond said in an e-mailed response to questions.

Slater’s agent, Terry Hardy, didn’t respond to telephone and e-mail messages.

Brazilian Gabriel Medina fell from first place going into the Rio event to fifth after getting eliminated in round three. Adriano de Souza, who has been on the tour longer than any Brazilian, remains sixth after being eliminated by Slater in round five.

De Souza missed training a day before the Rio contest after refusing to pay a tax to recover seven boards seized by customs. He then fell on a backup board during training, hurting his hip.

The next round starts June 1 in Fiji, where Slater is the defending champion.

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