Writer, Surfer

Kelly Slater held absolutely nothing back in this interview.

Ladies and gentlemen, Kelly Slater, The Emperor of Surfing, has some new clothes! What finery, say the surf press! Splendid, cries the surf fan! Isn’t he magnificent, say the bloggers! But not I, ladies and gentlemen, not I. I think he looks like silly.

Apologies for being a little slow on the uptake, but I just watched Kelly Slater’s recent interview for conspiracy mongers Wearechange.org. It is as unwise a foray into non surf-centric media as Slater has ever made. It paints him as only a marginally less ludicrous character than Jimmy Slade.

This is a new low for Kelly, in my opinion. Quite aside from appearing slightly paranoid, there is a bumbling lack of conviction in the things he says, as if he knows he has opinions but isn’t quite sure he has the language to vocalize them, or the knowledge to back them up: “…it’s like ground zero here for…um…you know…testing all the GMO seeds, plants, whatever…” he offers, vaguely. He ums and aws his way through the entire interview as if unsure of the points he is trying to make. If he wasn’t such a familiar face it would be painfully awkward to watch.

The very fact that he entertains (and even compliments!) beaky bead-wearer and founder of Wearechange, Luke Rudkowski, is surprising. I never had the impression that Kelly Slater would be a man to suffer fools lightly, and I’m afraid that Rudkowski comes across as nothing if not a complete buffoon.

Slater explains why he believes Monsanto are operating in Hawaii: “…my first thought was, you’re in an enclosed environment, you’re on these islands in the middle of the ocean, so, if things went…I mean…zombie haywire…at least they’re just stuck here on these islands…”

Stop right there.

Back that one up a bit for me, chief. Did you say ZOMBIES?! Maybe it’s time to start hanging with the real folks again huh, Jimmy? If, in all seriousness, you can allude to a zombie apocalypse, it’s time to “have a word with yourself” (as we say in Scotland when someone has blatantly lost the plot).

I get it. It’s Kelly Slater. He has earned the right to have his voice heard, in the surf press at least. It goes without saying that his accomplishments afford him a little indulgence. But when he starts talking about fucking zombies, I think we need to draw a line in the sand.

The interview was filmed in the garden of Kelly’s North Shore property, and watching it made me wonder if he’s getting to that age where he might benefit from a care aid. A bossy nurse to come out of the house tutting and gently scold him as she takes him by the elbow and leads him back to his room. “Come now, Kelly. It’s ok, the bad zombies won’t get you in here. Now drink this warm milk and go to sleep.”

As for his thoughts on cancer, well they’re just next level stupid, not to mention ignorant: “I do get a lot of friends that call me, unfortunately because their wife, or they, get cancer…and they’re like ‘what do we do now?’ When they get sick, or their kids are sick or something, you know I get a phone call…”

Does he believe he is immune to cancer? Does his think he can cure it? Is he a doctor now? The tone of what Kelly says about cancer alludes more to a God complex than a guy who happens to be very good at surfing.

It is easy to praise Slater for everything he’s achieved over the years. He has given us a lot. But, in contrast to the surf media status quo and their reluctance (or inability) to criticize one of their own, I also think it’s important to call out figureheads as influential as Slater when the things they say publicly are misleading at best and nonsensical at worst.

Seriously, listen to the section from 10:00-11:44 and try to make sense of it. He goes off in such rambling tangents that if I didn’t know better I might be inclined to think that he’d been next door at Jamie O’Brien’s house, hitting up his stash.


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