We spoke to Joel early this morning, 10 minutes after he’d just threepeated the Hawaiian Triple Crown… with a coffee in one hand and a champagne in the other.
JP.com: Let’s rewind to you sitting on your lounge in Coolangatta with a million stitches in your foot: when did the first thoughts of the Hawaiian season and the Triple Crown start doing laps of your head?
Joel: Pretty much as soon as I got out of hospital, I suppose. People were saying that I might be back for Teahupoo, but my doctor was saying to me, “Realistically, mate, you won’t be doing much for three months.” So I started thinking that writes me off until the Triple Crown and Hawaii, and once I started surfing again – three of four weeks before I got here – that’s all I was thinking of. I just wanted to get here to Hawaii and surf us much as I can. Not so much the Triple Crown and the contests were motivating me; it was simply getting back into the water.
How emotionally low did you get after cutting your foot? Being stuck on the lounge, no surfing, no contests, the tour out the window for the year. Did you bottom out?
Yeah I had a few rock bottoms. I watched J-Bay on TV pretty well as soon as I got out of hospital, and I was really down then. I was eating a lot of painkillers and I was thinking this is just Chinese torture. I hated it. Then by the next event at Trestles I’d started feeling better, but I was watching the most perfect Lowers and it was just so hard to watch. Trestles was about the lowest for me. It’d come on TV early in the morning and I’d be watching heats I could have won, and it set me up for a day where I’d be down and depressed and negative. Then you factor in how taxing I must have been on my wife at this stage and the kids, cause I couldn’t do anything cause I was leg up on the couch.
There was the physical recovery with the foot, but mentally there must have been a huge rebound.
For sure. Once I could actually get wet, once I got the stitches out after five weeks, Wes carried me down to the water cause I couldn’t get sand in the cut, and I remember rolling around in the shorebreak going, “My god, how good is the water!” That kinda changed everything for me. I was like, yes, at least I could swim. Then I started boogieboarding about 10 weeks after I hurt myself. I was on a wave, riding whatever I could. I was stoked.
How was your boogieboarding form?
Not so good. I haven’t got much style on a boogieboard and I couldn’t wear flippers. What I had was what I had, but it was just good to be out there in the water with all the boys behind the rock at Snapper. I got a lot of shit from them, but it was all-time.
When you got to Hawaii did in your wildest dreams think you could paddle out for your first heat in four months and score a perfect 10, then win the contest?
Not at all. I wasn’t really surfing that well. I reckon I was at about 70 per cent and I thought I could get a wave here or there where I could link two turns together, but then I’d have two or three in a row where I’d have a shocker. And then the Haleiwa contest came along and it was just the kick-start I needed. Thrown in the deep end of competition, I had no pain, and I was back to normal.
You held a solid lead in the Triple Crown ratings coming into Pipe and then yesterday happened – losing on a countback to Owen. The wall around the side of the house took another couple of punches, the same wall you hit last year after losing the world title here. Should we hang a punching bag around there for next year?
But with all your three Triple Crown wins you’ve never won a heat to clinch them… you’ve had to wait for other guys to lose.
Just watching those heats is an emotional rollercoaster. I would have loved for once to be out there and won a heat to win the Triple Crown, but I don’t care, I’ll take it however I can. I won a few heats beforehand that got me into that position. It’s either at the back end of the front end you do the business, and I was happy to have done the work already.
And a triple Triple Crown… could you have ever dreamt that up?
Not in Hawaii. I used to think, how do you ever beat the Hawaiian guys for it? The Sunnys, the Andys, the Bruces. In the early years I won at Sunset once and was in a position leading the Triple Crown, and Andy had to win Pipe to beat me for it. He won it, won Pipe, won the Triple Crown. I’ve had a couple of close losses here, which makes this one mean more.
Tell me the story about the day you lost the Triple Crown here to Andy.
He got all the way to the final, he had to win Pipe to win the Triple Crown, and the prize was 20 grand and a car. Sure enough he won. We were staying together, and I’m like, you’ve got to be kidding me! He came up afterwards and he said, “Brah, as if I was never going to win that car!” Those were good days, and a loss like this makes this years win even sweeter.
There’s been a very sombre vibe to the Hawaiian season with Andy not here.
Definitely. I spent some time on Kauai, I went over three times, and it definitely… it feels okay here on Oahu, but over on Kauai is where it really hits you. Whenever I’d been on Kauai before I was there with Andy. Being over there without him there was weird, visiting all his local haunts. Being here at the house at Off The Wall was weird, but as much as Andy ruled Pipe here, he was a Kauai boy.
And you met Andy Junior.
Yep, flew over and met Andy Junior. Had a hold. He’s beautiful. Lyndie’s doing pretty well and I think there is so much love for her and the baby that in a few years time that kid will grow up with a great life. The people she has around her, the friends and family, as hard as the time is now the future holds a lot of good things for them.
It’s not every day of the week you cheer Kelly on, but this morning you needed him to knock Ace Buchan out for you to win the Triple Crown. You were the President of the Kelly Slater Fan Club.
I know. I feel bad cause Bucko’s out there and he’s one of the best blokes on tour and such a nice guy, and here I am throwing daggers at him hoping he’s going to lose. I feel so guilty hoping Bucko is going to lose, but it is what it is. It’s a competition.
And it seems like the Triple Crown prize cheque is already spent. Monica wants a new driveway for the house.
Mon has been into me for a couple of years now; “Next contest you win we’ll do up the driveway.” I came in after Ace had lost and I’d won, and the first thing she said to me is, “So we’re getting that new driveway, eh.”