“When I started to compete and see that was an expected image of a surfer, for me personally, I wanted to change that about myself. I didn’t want people to think that about me...I also didn’t want to have culture not respect surfers as people.” - Kelly Slater
We told you it was coming. We just made you wait a little longer than we thought we’d have to. Apologies. We think it was worth the wait.
As promised, Kelly Slater sits down with us and discusses plenty of things that are more interesting and more important than surfing. A little context wouldn’t hurt here, though.
From the beginning, we wanted to do an interview with Kelly that reveals a glimpse into who he is as a person and how he thinks about and approaches issues in his life beyond surfing. Clearly, his excellence as a surfer and champion of our sport have largely defined our understanding and appreciation for him. But there are unique human qualities that define excellence and have enabled him to dominate his peers for such an extended period of time. They invite examination. Sure, technique, discipline and athleticism are indispensable ingredients in establishing athletic dynasties. Essential. But I submit that the most crucial factor contributing to the success of any iconic athlete is mental resolve. The body has limits. The mind, not so much.
Which is why Kelly had the patience to indulge an interview touching on topics ranging from morality to politics to gun control to drugs in surfing to how he approaches the singular responsibility of representing our sport and culture to the world. He thinks for himself.
As an example, in 2008 just a few months before America’s presidential election, I distinctly remember asking him (and all of the professional surfers who attended the 2008 Surfer Poll Awards), who they planned to vote for in the upcoming election. It was meant as a joke, although I was actually interested to hear their responses. Most shrugged or laughed or said Obama because they thought they were supposed to. But Kelly, without hesitating, said, “Cynthia McKinney.”
And he had all sorts of reasons as to why.
Politics and politicians come and go, and I guarantee Kelly has a different opinion and set of political beliefs now. Much time has passed since this interview. But I also guarantee that his resolve to think independently about transcendent issues is unwavering.
So now, for possibly the first time ever, here’s an opportunity to briefly get to know Kelly Slater, the person. Enjoy. - Zach