Kelly Slater returns to perfect form on the Championship Tour with a win over one of the world’s best barrel riders, John John Florence, in flawless conditions at Teahupo’o, Tahiti. It’s been two years since the king has claimed a victory on the World Surf League, and even longer since he’s proved to be unbeatable throughout an entire event. With such an absence (for Kelly) in between CT wins, people have speculated if the 11-time world champ will ever win another world title, and if his unremarkable 20+ run on tour is finally coming to a close. With a world tour ranking outside of the top 10 coming into Teahupo’o for the first time in his career, and a surgence of younger and thought-to-be more heavily agile surfers now on tour like Filipe Toledo, John John Florence and Gabriel Medina, questions have rose of Kelly’s ability to compete with the best in the world in 2016. But Kelly is at the top of his health and nutrition game, agile as ever, and with this win, shows us no signs of slowing down. We may just see a return of the great in the near future. A swing in the tide if you will. Whether or not Kelly goes on to win another CT event or world title, he’s still the king, and still ruling the upper-class of professional surfing in 2016. I mean, who other than Kelly Slater can pull off rides like this at one of the heaviest waves in the world…

This event marked his 55th CT win and fifth win at Teahupo’o, but that’s not all. Along the way, Kelly bagged four perfect 10s, a perfect heat score (third of his career, ninth in pro surfing history), and for the first time ever he was awarded the prestigious Andy Irons Commitment Award (A.I. Award), which is given to the most committed surfer during the Teahupo’o event. Kelly has a rich and personally competitive history with Andy where they intensely rivaled each other like no other pair in surfing, or arguably, sports history. In fact, the last heat Kelly ever had with Andy was in the semifinals of this same event in 2010, where Andy would go on to hoist the trophy, so having Kelly win the A.I. Award and the event this year, was truly emotional for everyone.

“I was channeling Andy this week. I was thinking about him a lot. A lot of emotions.” -Kelly

Kelly and the three time world champ Andy Irons had one of the most competitive and heated rivalries in sport’s history, fighting for world titles while pushing the sport into a higher realm of professional competition. Listen below to Kelly on his rivalry w/ Andy Irons (skip to 1min 52s):

With this win, it pushes Kelly into eighth place on WSL’s Championship Tour, but he has a long way to go if he wants to clinch the 2016 world title:

“I’m too far out of it now, but I’ll try and play the role of spoiler a few times if I can. I want to keep winning heats, and maybe if I win another event or two, we can have that conversation.”

Watch Kelly’s road to the 2016 Teahupo’o finals:

FINALS:
1: Kelly Slater (USA) 19.67
2: John John Florence (HAW) 15.23

SEMIFINALS:
SF 1: Kelly Slater (USA) 18.40 def. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 16.10
SF 2: John John Florence (HAW) 19.66 def. Gabriel Medina (BRA) 19.23

QUARTERFINALS:
QF 1: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 18.16 def. Kolohe Andino (USA) 16.00
QF 2: Kelly Slater (USA) 19.27 def. Bruno Santos (BRA) 17.43
QF 3: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 17.90 def. Josh Kerr (AUS) 13.40
QF 4: John John Florence (HAW) 17.34 def. Julian Wilson (AUS) 16.60

ROUND 5:
Heat 1: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 16.77 def. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 12.60
Heat 2: Kelly Slater (USA) 20.00 def. Keanu Asing (HAW) 14.70
Heat 3: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 15.43 def. Jadson Andre (BRA) 14.33
Heat 4: John John Florence (HAW) 18.30 def. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 15.90

Current 2016 WSL Jeep Leaderboard (Top 5):
1. John John Florence (HAW) 39,900 pts
2. Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 36,000 pts
3. Gabriel Medina (BRA) 35,700 pts
4. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 26,200 pts
5. Julian Wilson (AUS) 25,200 pts