“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.”

Who?

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

Please check out HEADSPACE: Kelly Slater, Part One as well as 20 Great Photos: Kelly Slater by the very talented Branden Aroyan.

Special thanks to Chris SteblayFresh CleanQuiksilver, and CI and  for their support.

Kelly Slater Headspace Interview

Kelly Slater Headspace Interview

  • Kara Hawthorn

    great he speaks of 911 doubt….. + more compassion in general
    ….. surprised by his thoughtfulness.
    “truth” movement def. needs better ambassadors…..
    more courageous but classy mainstream people.
    surf industry should take more of a stand for the Real counter
    culture not pretend trendz…. ( headbands + feathers anyone? lol )
    …. though I realistically doubt nike / gucci are down
    4 that yet so y’all are in quite a catch 22 right now …..
    ( u do have to finally pick a team + no, u cant be on both ;)
    but values that are not just environmental to be taken seriously
    + trusted as not merely hedonistic….B more like in the 60′s but
    next level….. “hippies” @heart who aren’t so flamboyant but much
    more p.r. sophisticated…. honoring native americans (including Hawaiians)
    really does = anti – empire / greed values …. cause its all obvi. 2 delicately
    connected…..that’s soul surfing,i think, not just purist escapism.
    otherwise the ocean will soon be too unhealthy 2 swim in like it or not.

    • http://media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lposz3cocr1qep8ay.gif gannysesh

      Is your comment one giant math equation?

      • Kara Hawthorn

        hope so! aloha ke akua

  • RB2

    nice thoughtful guy , a product of the culture.
    Progressive/Libertarianism–social liberalism, its whats in the air.

  • Joey Kim

    The more I learn about how Kelly thinks, the more I respect him. I’ve always admired his character and courage.

  • Jeff Byrnes

    That was… diplomatic.