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Surfing great Kelly Slater hints at end of glittering, decades-long career

By James Legge, CNN

(CNN) — Kelly Slater, widely regarded as the greatest surfer of all time, suggested he may have surfed his last competitive wave after crashing out of a tournament in Western Australia — but gave fans hope of one final outing.

The 52-year-old American, an 11-time world champion, missed the World Surf League’s mid-season cut after losing to compatriot Griffin Colapinto – a man 27 years his junior – in the round of 32 at the Margaret River Pro.

This time “feels like the end,” Slater told World Surf League Monday.

“It is what it is, you know. 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 in that 100% that everyone is doing now,” the Florida-born star said.

Slater’s era of dominance began in 1992, when, at age 20, he became the youngest ever men’s world champion, a record he still holds. His 11th world title came 19 years later, making him the oldest champion, too.

In the intervening years, he was unassailable as the global face of an otherwise niche sport. He attained a level of celebrity few of his competitors could dream of, with major promotional tie-ins, a role in hit 1990s show “Baywatch” (he dated co-star Pamela Anderson), and even a video gameKelly Slater’s Pro Surfer.”

“Surfing is my religion, if I have one,” Slater told CNN in 2013. “The barrel (the hollow of a breaking wave) is really the ultimate ride for any surfer. It’s the eye of the storm. Some guys say it’s like being in the womb.

“For me it’s sort of like time slows down. You become hyper aware of a lot of different things – the way the wave is breaking, timing, putting yourself in the right part of the barrel. It takes all of your mental capacity to do it just right.”

In recent years, however, Slater has struggled with injuries and has been dropping hints at retirement.

While the result this week means he is off the tour this year, the all-time great said he might still apply for a wildcard in Fiji in August.

“It’s been an incredible lifetime of memories,” Slater said at Margaret River on Monday.

Visibly moved, he said: “It’s just so much emotion for so long, so much dedication and it’s not all roses, you know? But it’s been the best times of my life.”

And though his storied surf career is coming to an end, Slater added it feels like “the start of something else, the start of the rest of life.”

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