Kelly Slater has arrived in New Zealand, getting into the country almost unnoticed ahead of next week's Piha Pro.
Slater's arrival into New Zealand was not tipped off to media, however when the 11-time world champion arrived in New Zealand from Hawaii yesterday, a few fans were there to greet him.
Auckland man John Keoghan and his children, Sophie and Ben, were at Auckland Airport to welcome to consensus greatest professional surfer of all time to New Zealand and take the opportunity to get autographs and photos with Slater.
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Speaking to the Herald, Keoghan explained he wasn't 100 per cent sure when Slater would arrive, but took an educated guess after some investigating.
"I follow his Instagram account and Kelly put a photo up on his Instagram feed of a potato chip packet in an airline. I googled the packet and found it was on Hawaiian Airlines," he explained. "I saw when Hawaiian Airlines were coming in and thought 'well, he's coming to the Piha Pro' so we drove out and, as luck would have it, he was on the flight."
Keoghan said Slater was happy to stop to signed shirts, caps and even a surfboard the family had taken along with them.
"As soon as he saw there was someone there to welcome him to New Zealand he popped over and was more than happy to have a nice chat – asking the kids their names and that sort of thing.
"They were so stoked. They've probably been drip fed stuff from me for so many years, but they're budding little surfers as well."
Slater will be one of 112 surfers from around the world lining up in the men's tournament of the Piha Pro next week, and comes into the competition as the top seed after finishing eighth on the World Surf League Championship Tour last year. The event, which will feature both a men's and women's competition, is among the few elite level qualifying series events, offering 10,000 points to the winner towards their bid for CT qualification in 2021.
The event window opens on Monday, with the competition to be wrapped up no later than Sunday.
Slater will be one of three world champions, with 2015 men's champion Adriano de Souza also in the lineup, while four-time women's world champion Carissa Moore headlines the women's field.