"Sportsman of the Year" for Slater?

Slater on top of the world in San Francisco. Joli

Eleven ASP World Titles, 48 tour victories, etc, etc, etc. No doubt Kelly Slater is the greatest competitive surfer to ever don a singlet, but Sports Illustrated's "Sportsman of the Year?" That's some heady ground for a surfer.

"Slater has long since established himself as not only the greatest professional surfer of all time but as simply, The Surfer," writes SI's Kostya Kennedy, making a case for Slater as 2011's Sportsman of the Year.

"He's the one guy your grandmother in landlocked Topeka has heard of, the guy who singularly transcends his discipline," continues Kennedy. "Babe Ruth. Wayne Gretzky. Tony Hawk. Yo-Yo Ma. Kelly Slater."

Slater and the Babe? That's a big call, but when you consider that the 39-year-old Floridian is up against Super Bowl-winning quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols, and NBA MVP Dirk Nowitzki, maybe it makes sense. Nobody in surf, and for that matter in action sports, save Shaun White, has transcended their niche so completely.

Ask anybody in Slater's camp and they'll tell you straight. "He's one of the best athletes of our time, bar none," affirms longtime friend and mentor Mark Cunningham, who helped chair Slater up the beach when he won his 11th title in San Francisco.

SI will announce the winner of the 2011 Sportsman of the Year award on December 6. Vote for your pick via Facebook.