Kelly Slater won his first Pipeline Masters in 1992: The same year John John Florence was born.
Nothing could provide a more graphic illustration of the vast generation gap between two irrepressible forces who will clash in the quarter-finals of the Billabong Pipeline Masters.
Slater is the 39-year-old Floridian with 11 world titles and six Pipe Masters on his resume. Florence is the 19-year-old Hawaiian who used to have posters of Slater on his bedroom wall.
The old man of the sea relishes putting “Generation Next” back in their box, but Florence, the most precocious talent to hit professional surfing in decades, poses the ultimate threat to Slater in a showdown that will bring Oahu’s North Shore to a standstill.
Florence drew Slater in the non-elimination fourth round on Friday and smoked him.
More than 5,000 spectators watched the first clash between the master and his most capable apprentice. Traffic on the Kamehemahema Highway descended to a crawl, the noise was deafening as 12 foot waves approached.
Florence posted his second 10-point ride of the event, racking up 17.67 points to swamp Slater’s 8.5 and former world champion CJ Hobgood’s 5.43.
However, their next heat will be a whole new ball game. It will be man-on-man and sudden death.
Slater has perfected the art of peaking at the business end of contests, while the rookie has been the standout of the first five rounds, but the Association of Surfing Professionals is yet to start handing out trophies for making a good start.
Slater turned it up a notch in his repecharge round against Hawaii’s Kalani Chapman to book his berth against Florence.
He disappeared inside a hissing barrel and made a clean getaway to earn 9.87 points and self-administer a large injection of confidence.
Slater had an eventful day, surfing three heats, breaking the tail off one board and the nose off another, sustaining a deep gash to an elbow.
Florence took a beating from Pipe, too. He had cuts and bruises on his cheek from the reef.