Kelly Slater slays Pipeline, claiming eighth win at 49

Kelly Slater has blown the competition out of the water and won his eighth Pipeline title, 30 years after his first victory at the iconic Hawaiian surf break.

It happened just days before his 50th birthday.

The 11-time world champion dominated the decider in the season-opening World Surf League (WSL) event against 22-year-old Hawaiian local Seth Moniz on Sunday (AEDT).

A 56th top-level win was Slater’s first since Tahiti 2016 and capped a wild campaign on the famous North Shore break that included an incredible buzzer-beating barrel to reach the quarter-finals.

Slater also relied on an interference penalty on semi-final rival Miguel Pupo earlier on finals days.

Slater toyed with Moniz, whose father Tony was a former rival of the Californian, in the early stages of their final before finding his way through two deep barrels, scoring nine and 8.17-point rides to set the bar high.

Moniz fought back, somehow pushing through a heavy, breaking barrel to send his fanbase on the beach into a cheering frenzy.

A stumble as he emerged cost him though, with judges marking him down to effectively seal his fate and cement Slater’s win.

Slater and Moniz did trade huge, late-dropping barrels for scores of 9.77 and 9.43 respectively with their final waves, to cap off a spectacular day of action as the American legend closed out victory – 18.77 to 12.53.

The victory puts Slater’s quest for a 12th world title firmly in the spotlight, although he could be hindered if unable to compete in the two Australian legs this year.

An outspoken critic of mandatory vaccination, Australian officials have made clear there will be no exemptions given to the surfing great to compete at Bells Beach and Margaret River in April and May.