Rumours heat up Pipeline will be Slater's last
Kelly Slater's mother will attend the Pipeline Masters for the first time in more than a decade as her son attempts to crush Australia's Joel Parkinson and Mick Fanning by grabbing one more world title for the road.
Slater is expected to announce his retirement from full-time competition at the end of the event and the arrival on the North Shore from Florida of his mother, Judy, is another indisputable sign that the end is nigh for one of the most dominant athletes in the history of professional sport.
Slater's heavyweight stoush against Parkinson and Fanning is expected to begin at Pipeline tomorrow with sizeable north-west swell forecast to slam onto the famous reef.
"There's always pressure, mostly from myself, but I feel good heading into this event," Slater said.
"It looks like we have some good swells on tap for the window with really good winds. My mum is actually coming here for the first time in a very long time, which is going to be especially cool. I love Pipeline and I'm really looking forward to it all. To Joel and Mick, let's have a great contest. And may the best man win."
Parkinson was on the reef at dawn yesterday. If he places higher than Slater at Pipe, a maiden world title is his. Fanning needs to lift the trophy and have both front-runners eliminated early.
"I've been coming to Hawaii for most of my life and it feels like a second home to me," Parkinson said.
"I stay right there and surf Pipe whenever it breaks. It's a special wave and I love to get barrelled. At this point, it's impossible not to think about the title race, but the best you can do is focus on the event in front of you. I've never won the Pipe Masters, and my goal here is to win the event."
Fanning said he was looking to have a good time and was not focussed on a possible second world title.
"My only aims for this event are to have fun and get barrelled.," he said.
"With regard to the title race, Joel and Kelly have to stumble and I have to do well to have a shot. I'm not worrying about what they're doing, just focusing on my own event. To be in the running at this stage of the year feels great, though, and it should be an exciting few days ahead of us."
The top seeds begin their campaigns in round three. The most electrifying heat in round one pits Australia's winner of the World Cup of Surfing at Sunset Beach, Adam Melling, against Bruce Irons.
Melling is in the running for the prestigious and lucrative $US1 million Triple Crown title that is awarded to the leading surfer from Hawaii's acclaimed winter contests at Haleiwa, Sunset and Pipe.