Kelly Slater is chasing his 12th WSL world title ©Getty Images

After days of postponement, proceedings finally got underway at the World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour event at Sunset Beach - with series leader Kelly Slater almost being eliminated.

The 50-year-old entered the leg off the back of winning the season's opener at Pipeline, also in Hawaii, and announcing his ambition to win a record 12th WSL world title.

However, Australian rookie Callum Robson produced an under-the-hood hack to relegate Slater to the elimination round on the last wave of their opening heat.

Slater's two-wave score of 8.94 was 0.89 points short of Robson's total, and 2.46 behind local surfer Barron Mamiya.

Knowing he needed to deliver in the elimination round, the American switched up to a thruster set-up against Hawaii’s wildcard replacement Kao Smith and South Africa’s Mathew McGillivray.

After Slater secured a couple of six-point waves to position himself strongly, Smith attempted to ride an exceptionally large wave but fell just below Slater’s standard, meaning the veteran progressed by a margin of just 0.27 points.

Hawaii's John John Florence and Ezekiel Lau produced brilliant first-round performances to establish themselves as favourites for the competition, and fellow Hawaiian Imaikalani deVault - a rookie - received 8.93 for one wave, the best score of the day.

Fellow rookies Jake Marshall of the US and Australia’s Jackson Baker also won their opening heats.

Those eliminated from the competition were Smith, Brazil’s Miguel Pupo and Australians Owen Wright and Jordan Lawler.

Wright was the men's bronze medallist at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, where surfing made its debut.