Kelly Slater returning to NZ for inaugural Auckland event

Author
Alex Chapman,
Publish Date
Sun, 9 Feb 2020, 1:44PM
Kelly Slater. (Photo / Getty)
Kelly Slater. (Photo / Getty)

Kelly Slater returning to NZ for inaugural Auckland event

Author
Alex Chapman,
Publish Date
Sun, 9 Feb 2020, 1:44PM

The biggest name in surfing is heading to New Zealand.

Eleven-time world champion Kelly Slater has signed to start his World Surf League season on Auckland's west coast, agreeing to compete in the inaugural Piha Pro.

Slater, regarded as the greatest surfer of all time, is a huge drawcard for the event which is guaranteed at least three years.

The event, which runs during March 16-22, is the week before the Championship Tour season-opener on the Gold Coast.

It will be the first time the American has competed in New Zealand in 27 years.

As well as his 11 world titles, the 47-year-old has 55 career victories, as well as being the youngest and oldest world champion in men's history.

His most dominant days were the mid-1990s, when he won five straight titles from 1994 to 1998. He captured his first world title in 1992 at the age of 20, and his last in 2011, at 39.

In 2019, at 47, he finished as the world No 8 and claimed his third Vans Triple Crown title, although he missed an Olympic berth for the sport's debut in Tokyo this year.

He has also developed a strong focus on the environment and has become an activist and campaigner around it, with his business deals environmentally and socially conscious. His surf clothing line, Outerknown, is committed to a sustainable supply chain. The surfboards and surf gear he designs with Firewire make the most use of sustainable materials possible.

The Piha Pro will see the WSL return to New Zealand for the first time in more than five years, with its last event a women's 6000-rated Qualifying Series event in Taranaki.

Organisers are hoping to attract some of the biggest names in the sport. Inspirational Hawaiian surfer Bethany Hamilton has already been confirmed, while seven-time women's world champion Stephanie Gilmore has expressed interest.

It was last week revealed by the Herald on Sunday that New Zealanders Elliot Paerata-Reid and Kehu Butler would add a local flavour to the event after being given wildcards.

The last major international surfing event at Piha was the ISA world junior championships, which saw two-time world champion Gabriel Medina win the under-18 boys' division.

 

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