If you ever wanted a clear example of how, err, unique surfing remains as a professional sport, Kelly Slater’s no-show in Spain yesterday was it.

The latest round of the international circuit is being held at one of the world’s greatest left-handed waves, a sand bar called Mundaka. Well, it’s a good wave when it works, as a lay-day was called overnight, in the hope a better swell would turn up.

American Kelly Slater goes into the event with everything to win. In fact, victory would give him an unprecedented eighth world title. Already the sport’s greatest legend, this week is his chance to cement his legacy.

So he slept in, not even in the same country as the event.

Slater was due to compete in the seventh of the first round heats. Known for his late arrivals, he still hadn’t shown as heat 6 was coming to an end. According to Surfing, The Mag’s website, beach announcer Nuno Jonet repeatedly called: “Kelly Slater, please check in for your heat.” But Slater wasn’t there.

In fact, he was two hours and an international border away. Slater had reportedly woken in France, checked the event’s webcast, seen the crappy surf and assumed they wouldn’t get to his seventh heat. Once it became obvious they were going to keep surfing, he ran out of time to get there.

Can you imagine Roger Federer sitting at home in Switzerland on the morning of his Wimbledon first round, checking the internet to see if it might rain and whether he should bother heading to the All-England Club? Or Tiger Woods deciding on the day whether to fly to Augusta for the Masters tee-off?

Australia’s Luke Egan said Slater’s careless demeanour was rude and disrespectful, saying: “It kind of blows me away that Kelly Slater could wrap up his eighth world title this year and decides not to show up for his heat. I don’t know what kind of tactics they are. Does he really want it?”

Despite all this, Slater could still win the Mundaka event. Surfing works in weird ways and by not competing – or losing – his first heat, the American’s only punishment is to be pushed into the sudden-death second round heats. With his arrogance and sheer talent, Slater wouldn’t be too worried about that.

Peter Fray

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