Kelly Slater fights back tears as surfing retirement suddenly hits

It was almost fitting that it took the current world No.1 to bring down the curtain on the greatest career in surfing history.

Kelly Slater, the 11-time world champion, chose to give Griffin Colapinto a hug as the clock ticked down in their round of 32 heat at the Margaret River Pro with one final miracle escape beyond the 52-year-old legend.

Slater needed a win in WA to survive the mid-season cut. After surviving an elimination heat on Tuesday morning at Main Break, he found the current rankings leader Colapinto too much to handle.

Slater was chaired off the beach and up the stairs to loud cheers, with a high five from fellow American Colapinto on the way through, before Slater revealed he’d asked for a wildcard into the next event in Fiji because he didn’t want to end on a wave that had never been kind to him.

“It’s almost hitting me, it’s right there, it’s bubbling,” Slater said of the emotional realisation the end was close.

“I’ve had a fight with this wave my whole career, so it’s not necessarily the wave I want to end on. I have put in for a wildcard for Fiji and we’ll see how that goes.

“But it is what it is, everything comes to an end and if you don’t adapt you don’t survive and my motivation just hasn’t quite been there to really put on that 100 per cent everyone is doing now.”

Slater has dominated surfing unlike anyone else over his three decades on tour but said the time was right to move on with a baby due in three months.

“It’s been an incredible lifetime of memories,” he said.

“It’s so much emotion for so long. It’s not all roses but it’s been the best times of my life.

“I couldn’t quite pull a miracle off this week. I’ve pulled off a few over the years. I still had that hope out there.

“But to lose to the No.1 … I’m kind of avoiding that emotion. It hit me at Sunset this year. I have been struggling. I’m just fighting through the pain, hoping for adrenaline.

“I broke down at home, this feel likes the end but the start of something else.”

Australian star Ethan Ewing, Liam O’Brien and wildcard George Pittar were among the local winners on Tuesday all earning passage to the Round of 16.