Slater could still win his 12th title if Fanning loses in the 5th round or quarter finals and Slater wins out. Slater have moved straight to the QF and Fanning has a 5th round match-up with CJ Hobgood. Could be very interesting, but I think Fanning is on a roll and wins his 3rd title. But I think Slater makes the final against John John Florence in an epic battle in double overhead, 2nd reef, cracking pipe surf.
He's amazing, but as noted, the talent pool is very small.
I liken it to climbing in the prior to the mid 80's. The guys who were the best were ones who happened to live near good outdoor rock. Some guy with incredible genetic (and other types of) potential who spent his whole life in the flat lands would never have had occasion to try it at a young age and get hooked. Imagine if John Gill or Bachar grew up and then lived their whole life in Omaha Nebraska.
Then came climbing gyms and now there is the opportunity for so many more people to at least get some taste of what pulling down is like. So now we have an explosion of talent being exposed to the sport in some degree.
Until some kind of surfing wave simulator becomes as common place as rock gyms, we won't have anything but the big fish / small pond syndrome of surfing, IMO.
Yeah, the notion that the population of surfers is really small is an oblivious one. And I should note that next year some of the contests are going "general population" in their approach for the first time. Their numbers are showing it will work and viewership as well is apparently huge.
Source: International Surfing Association, Boardtrac, All About Surfboards, Ezine Articles
Date Verified: 4.5.2012 Surfing Statistics
Estimate population of American surfers (surf at least once a year) 1,736,000
Estimate number of surfers worldwide 23 million
Longest amount of time spent surfing one wave 37 minutes
Average weight of the original design for a surfboard 100 pounds
Most money made by a surfer in a single year – Kelly Slater, 2009 $3 million
Height of the biggest wave ever recorded 1740 ft.
Record number of people surfing tandem on a single board 47
Record number of people to surf the same wave simultaneously 103
Average cost for a bar of surf wax $1.50
Surfing Industry Revenue Statistics
Surfing industry revenue in 2010 $6.24 billion
Surfing industry revenue in 2008 $7.22 billion
Hard good sales in 2010 (surfboards, skateboards, and accessories) $1.46 billion
Wetsuit sales in 2010 $110.4 million
Footwear sales in 2010 $1.5 billion
Stand up Paddleboard (SUP) sales in 2010 $14.5 million