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The champ is back. Kelly Slater’s been on an extended leave of absence after folding his entire foot backwards during a freesurf at J-Bay.

Pipe Masters is currently on down time. Kelly’s in, returning to competition for the first time since that day back in July, and taking down an in form Joan Duru and Kolohe Andino, with a throw away air rev thrown in, just for kicks.

Shortly after that wrapped, Kelly took a few minutes to have a chat about his obliterated foot, weighing in on the thriving John John vs Gabriel Medina rivalry, how it looks like the world title race is theirs – and Slater’s secret mission to play spoiler at Pipe.

Talking injury and returning to competition…
The goal was to get back for the future classic and then the goal was to get back for France but neither of those came close to happening so… I came here sort of tentative. If the waves were real messy or big and sloppy then I probably wasn’t going to surf. Actually it would have been worse if it was real small and you had to do turns, if it was like a small north, little rights where you had to hit the lip and stuff, I probably would have pulled out.

I think a lot of the pain is sort of superficial. I do have a lot of pain. I don’t think it’s injury prone pain, I think it’s regular scar tissue. I don’t know, I’ll find out if I reinjure it…

I felt pretty comfortable, yeah, I was happy going left because my foot feels better sitting on my heel and it was nice to get that first one out of the way.

Gabby Medina vs John for the contest and title?
Well John’s got the edge, he’s at home. He’s at Backdoor and Pipe, the spot where everyone feels like he’s the guy at these days and he’s got the lead and all the support on the beach.

Even though Gabriel’s not far behind, it’s a mammoth task to just get those two heats ahead of John. Most likely, he’s gonna have to win the contest. Even though it’s close, it’s a big task for Gabriel for sure.

John could lose right now and all the pressure could open up for Gabriel – he still has to perform and make those couplea heats. Everyone wants to win this contest, it is the best contest in the world to win.

On John having fun under pressure…
He is, you know, he achieved his task last year. He won the world title and also the Eddie in the same year. I think, he’s got his mind maybe a little bit distracted from the world title, just because I know he wants to win this contest itself so badly.

So he’s probably focused on, let’s just go out there and win, then everything else will just fall into place, you know? If he gets a third, Gabriel’s got to win, it’s a big task for the other guys to come from behind against the guy sitting at home in the spot he’s most comfortable at, compared to everyone else in the world.

On whether Gabby has a shot at the title…
Yeah, he’s under pressure. That being said, he won the last two events on tour. He was almost out of the title picture, then he did better than anyone else in the world could do in that situation to come from that far behind. If you were to win this and three events in a row and a world title, then you know, it’s fitting of a world champion.

He won the Future Classic, I think Tom Curren’s the only person to win four events in a row on tour, [Gabby] should look at like, I’ve hit my peak, I’m in my stride… so the pressure’s a little bit back on John in that sense, if you come in and steal this from John, then that’s a big thing in their rivalry. And I am glad it is these two guys [in a rivalry]. Glad to see them going up against each other.

On Kelly playing spoiler for the world title…
Secretly, I hope to be. I saw Charlie [Rodrigues – Gabs’ step dad] the other day. And he said, ‘hey man, I need you, I need you, we need you,’ and I said, I can be your nemesis or your friend, we’ll find out. I hope I’m in there at the end and I hope one of those two guys are in the final when I get there.

For a full wrap of the day’s events, go HERE.