Distributor of Ideas

Well, it’s a reasonable question. It’s been asked before. It might be asked again, and there’s no definitive response to comparative questions like these. But, hey, let’s have a fun debate. Is Kelly Slater the greatest athlete ever?

The following infographic was created and distributed by Quiksilver. Let us know what you think!

Is Kelly Slater the Greatest Athlete of all time? Infographic




  • Guest

    First person to get 2 1o’s??? Shane Beschen got 3 10’s.
    Plays music with other people????
    Magazine covers???
    Sebastian Loeb World Rally Champion 8 times consecutive World Champ 70 Event wins.
    the infomercial kind of leaves lot of info out

  • Guest

    First person to get 2 1o’s??? Shane Beschen got 3 10’s.
    Plays music with other people????
    Magazine covers???
    Sebastian Loeb World Rally Champion 8 times consecutive World Champ 70 Event wins.
    the infomercial kind of leaves lot of info out

  • Andbr591

     I want Kelly to be acknowledged as the best ever athlete, but that acknowledgement seriously can’t come from his sponsor.  title 12 seem like an inevitability.  If there is any title he is chasing now, perhaps it is to be known as the best athlete ever.  Probably impossible to be known as the greatest but he has to be in the top10 and that is a compliment.

  • Jess Ponting

    I wrote the following letter to the Editor of Time Magazine a few weeks ago in response to an article that claimed Indian Sachin Tendulkar as the world’s greatest athlete…

    This week time magazine has a feature article on Sachin Tendulkar – currently the world’s best batsman in the British born sport of cricket. He is touted as the world’s best athlete on the basis of the margin between him and his nearest rival as compared with other sports. He leads the next best batsman, Australia’s Ricky Ponting, by a factor of 41% (100 innings of 100 runs or more compared with Ponting’s 71). That is described as ‘total dominance’ compared with American Football where Brett Farve’s 508 passing touchdowns bests Dan Marino’s 420 by 21%. 

    I guess author Bobby Ghosh hasn’t heard of surfing . Kelly Slater’s 11 world titles leads Mark Richards’ 4 by a factor of 175%. Sorry Mr Ghosh, but the world’s best athlete is a surfer.

    • Shreya Mehendale

      On the money Jess. 

  • Matt O’Brien

    Robert Kelly Slater = Best Ever. (Period) In a sport/lifestyle that LOVES YOUTH, King Kelly can’t seem to convince his peers and industry that he isn’t welcome anymore. He is 40 F-cking Years old and is sticking it to the next next next next gen. I will admit that it looks like the torch will be passed to this Next Gen of rippers, BUT NOT WITHOUT A FIGHT! Love how people try to get all huffy when talking about this subject, but fact is that Slater has set the pace more times than not AND managed to keep most of us interested. Those that say they aren’t, just don’t UNDERSTAND what they are being privy to. If you didn’t watch MJ in 90’s or missed Tiger when he truly mastered the game, then you will not understand my rant. Regardless of surfing being a “opinionated” judged sport – it still can’t explain how a 40 yr. old bald guy could still be sticking to the next NEXT (bushy bushy hair and all). Because IF surfing is so Speculative, why not just screw the King and anoint a new one? Because Kelly forces them NOT TO that IS why. Hell Kelly could walk away today AND every surfer on tour would understand that whoever won the title would require an “*” next to it because the King simply walked away. Name another sport where the champ (defending or not) can bail on the scene and the scene would still have credibility. YES when Slater bailed in early 2000’s AI & crew filled the void, but Kelly has won 5 titles since, so that doesn’t really hold water now does it? I believe JJ and MEdina and Pupo & Kolohe (yes he will!) even Ads will keep the sport fresh and exciting – but we will not witness something  like King Kelly for a long long long time. He is the closest thing to THE Duke that we have in our life times. just my two cents. And yes I obviously think King Kelly is the greatest Athlete of all time. I call him King for crying out loud. cheers and great morning read for my ultra-caffeinated self…

  • Bigmac

     I love me some Kelly Slater as much as the next guy – but it’s worth considering that the athletes Quiksilver is comparing Kelly to have this in common: they play sports with very definitive, objective scoring and compete with an almost infinitely larger drawing pool of participants. This doesn’t take away from SL11R’s accomplishments at all, but those are two large considerations. Large ones.

  • JBlades

    “Is Kelly Slater the greatest athlete of all time?”

    Pose that question to anyone outside the surf bubble and they’ll immediately tell you “NO.”  And if your follow-up to that is an infographic, you’re gonna get laughed at.

    You say the man has won a lot of (subjectively judged) events (against a relatively small talent pool)?  Hey, his career has been an extremely impressive one, but it can hardly be called the pinnacle of athletic achievement.  I think we all know this.

    It’s pretty clear that Quiksilver is trying to stir up some mainstream press, but they went about it in a clumsy way.  Kelly is great.  BEYOND great.  But this is beyond dumb.

    • Alejandro Saez Blanco

      Blades, tell us who is then?

  • Bish

    Hey, I’m an Aussie, longtime member of the “Slater Hater” club.  Without question, he is the best athlete ever.  Though he has a significant protruding butt when he does a forehand bottom turn.  I can’t think of anything else to criticise.  Yeah, I know, it’s because I’ve got nothing….and even that protruding butt has been producing amazing turns/projection/top turns etc for generations.  All of which verifies the second sentence.

  • Bruce

    Interesting they mention kareem abdul jabar but not Michael Jordan.   Usain Bolt’s track record (excuse the pun). could exceed many of the Kelly Statistics.  Golf is a sport much harder to get the top of because of the amount of players. and circuits feeding into the majors. Rather than a compartmentalised surfing tour that is is.   Slater has also had the fortune of gaining his first titles in Beachbreaks. But when he matured it went to the dream tour.  If it was back at beachbreaks he ain’t gonna beat medina and JJ.

  • Bruce

    Interesting they mention kareem abdul jabar but not Michael Jordan.   Usain Bolt’s track record (excuse the pun). could exceed many of the Kelly Statistics.  Golf is a sport much harder to get the top of because of the amount of players. and circuits feeding into the majors. Rather than a compartmentalised surfing tour that is is.   Slater has also had the fortune of gaining his first titles in Beachbreaks. But when he matured it went to the dream tour.  If it was back at beachbreaks he ain’t gonna beat medina and JJ.

  • Anonymous

    Kelly could be the best athlete of all time, no doubt. But he doesn’t hold the record of youngest Surfer to take a World Title, as it claims above. Steph Gilmore was 19, and beating her by 1 month was Carissa Moore who was 18 last year when she won (she too would have been 19 if the women’s tour had finished in Hawaii). Not taking anything from Kelly, big fan, but should get your facts right for claims as such.And you guys opened it up to women by including Steffi Graff in the stats…

  • Slater is awesome no question and is deservedly one of the best athletes – but the infographic doesn’t cover a lot of great athletes. Basing it on numbers alone is dum as you can skew it any way you want. 
    Bjorn Dunkerbeck (windsurfing) is also over 40 yrs old now, still competing, winning and has = 41 world champion titles and counting!Edwin Moses (track) – 107 consecutive finals winsetc, etc

  • Adik gila

    You’re living in the past if you can’t recognise Surfing as a sport and recognise Kelly Slater as one of the greatest sportsmen of all time.  How his greatness is measured may be up for debate but it cannot be denied!  He most certainly deserves a SI cover.

  • Mig

    lance armstrong not even acknowledged ? 

    • Anonymous

      lance = too many drug rumours. one thing all surfers should be proud of kelly for, is the fact that he stands very clean and always has. a man of his record should be very proud for that alone.   

  • Anonymous

    The numbers here are interesting but mostly irrelevant. Any surfer who follows the tour AND is a serious sports fan knows: Slater is the most dominant competitive athlete in our lifetimes, without question. And it isn’t even close. There hasn’t been an athlete in any sport over the past 20 years who can claim to have been as far ahead of his or her competitors as Slater. Gretzky is probably the closest; when he was on the ice, and in his prime, it was clear that he was simply playing against children. Jordan had flashes of the same thing, but it wasn’t as sustained, and he had to work a lot harder than Slater does. When Slater is competing with even a shred of desire, there is absolutely no way he can lose. His dominance can be explained quite easily too: way smaller sample size. As crowded as lineups have become, there aren’t as many gifted athletes in surfing as there are in golf, tennis, baseball, basketball, football, you name it. Slater is one of those guys who could probably have been a success in any sport he chose. Most good surfers I know can’t throw a ball to save their lives–just horrible at traditional sports. Slater’s success at golf says it all: he’s coordinated. Anybody who can play golf well has superior physical coordination. 

  • Anonymous

    you’re right paul, giacomo agostini is possibly the greatest athlete the world has ever known. it’s incredible how he was able to use his own two legs to run down a speeding motorcycle, then leap on to the seat and grab the handlebars just as the bike was about to crash into a brick wall, then bend and contort his body into ligament-splitting positions, before hopping off the bike and sprinting back up the track to do it all again, each and every lap, at each and every race. 

    wait, that’s how motorcycle racing works right? 

  • Jeff Mcpherson

    He is the best ever, I say , the Micheal Jordan of surfing…lol

  • Jeff Mcpherson

    Also , to all the jealous haters , vayan se a la mierda

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