Kelly Slater is the oldest man on tour and was surfing this week with a cracked bone in his foot.
But as Australia’s current world champion Mick Fanning noted, Slater is still The Man.
The nine-time world champion from Florida displayed his vast experience and skill to win his fourth Rip Curl Pro title, beating Fanning in the final at Johanna Beach.
Slater, 38, now joins Australian Mark Richards as the only men to have won the iconic bell trophy four times.
Earlier, he gained motivation as his golfing friend Fred Couples became the oldest man to lead the Masters at Augusta.
“Everything you pick up or read about these days is me being old and the young guys taking over,” said Slater, who jumped to second on the World Championship Tour standings.
“There’s no secret, those guys are setting the bar – but there’s a difference between competition and making video sections.
“Doing the craziest thing every time isn’t going to win heats, because you’re going to fall.
“Sometimes you’ve got to just win that heat and get through it.”
On Tuesday, Slater hurt his foot while free surfing and needed a pain-killing injection to compete the following day.
He suffered a cracked bone and ligament damage on the top of his right foot, but did not need a needle to win through four rounds and take the title.
“Every time I go to walk up the beach or walk down the beach, the thing kills me, but then I get in the water and I guess the adrenaline starts going and I don’t feel it as much,” Slater said.
“I was probably lucky overall – if it was in the ankle, I probably couldn’t have surfed.”
Western Australian Taj Burrow, the winner of the season-opener on the Gold Coast, lost to Fanning in the semi-finals but retained the WCT lead with 16,500 points to Slater’s 13,750.
Defending event champion Joel Parkinson suffered an upset loss to American Bobby Martinez in the quarter-finals, before Slater beat Martinez in the semis.
Martinez is now fourth in the standings behind South African Jordy Smith while Fanning is fifth and Parkinson sixth.
Fanning had mixed feelings – pleased to compete so well, but disappointed not to win his second bell after snaring it in 2001.
Slater had previously won in 1994, 2006 and 2008.
The American took the lead for good midway through the final when he scored 8.93 points from an aerial and beat Fanning 17.03 to 12.
“I just didn’t have what it took in the final and the man just took me down,” Fanning said.
“In the scheme of things, in the world title race, it’s great.
“[But] I wanted that one so bad… this year I really wanted to get a bell – but not the second bell.”
The competition was moved from Bells Beach on Friday to one-metre surf at Johanna, about two hours west along the Great Ocean Road.
Organisers had to work through inconsistent surf since the men’s and women’s competitions started early last week.
It is understood to be the first time in the event’s 49-year history that the men’s competition has needed to visit four different sites.