Kelly Slater truly does not age. Not to blow too much smoke, but the guy looks like he’s in his early 30s. And he’s surfing like it, too. The 46-year-old made the finals of the Surf Ranch Pro, qualifying as part of the Top 8 that’ll face off in Sunday’s final. But that doesn’t mean I went light on the King. Always a lively interview, Kelly addressed competitor’s concerns that Surf Ranch points count towards the end-of-year standings, being an economic driver and winning from the clubhouse.
Okay, once more, if you haven’t been asked this a million times, put me behind the wizard’s curtain here, where’d the brainstorm come from for all this (looking around)?
It wasn’t just me. I got interested and put a group of (like-minded) people together. All those years growing up in Florida with no waves was part of it. Seeing the ideas of wave pools, going to Wet and Wild, surfing in a couple. Then the idea that it could be a reality with a real, proper wave. Kind of spurred my interest and I started following it. Some other people saw the vision and joined in.
So I talked to quite a few competitors who were in the thick of title hunts or even just trying to re-qualify who were really worried that the points from this new event go towards the end of the year and how it might affect their campaigns. What do you think about that?
Boycott it. I don’t know, if you feel strongly about that go boycott it and voice your opinion (laughs). I think everyone I’ve talked to is having a good time. Maybe some of the pros feel that way but they don’t say it to me and I understand that’s probably just them being respectful. If they really truly feel that issue they should stand up for that. I haven’t heard anyone voice that publicly. Out them (laughs). Trump’s outing everybody (joking).
Oh, that guy’s done (laughing, too). We actually did address it in an interview feature yesterday on the site. I think there’s just concern.
Anything new, we all have a fear. I can’t say that I don’t, of course. Part of me was thinking how will this play out? That’s why the WSL chose to have the Futures Cup last year and the Founders Cup this year to really flesh out anything that could go wrong with the machine and with feedback from the surfers but it seems like everyone has really enjoyed it so far. The feedback has been sort of overwhelmingly positive in that regard. But I do understand. It’s scary and I totally respect that people would have that feeling. Doesn’t scare me because I’m not on tour this year, bro.
One thing that strikes me is what an economic driver surf is. From Bali to the Gold Coast to Southern California for decades, and then river waves in places like Boise, Bend, and Missoula have proven to create new, economic growth with shops and restaurants going in, among other things. Are you proud that you’re able to maybe boost the economy and profile of a place like Lemoore?
I would hope we would be able to do that. You don’t want to come into some city where you’re not from, where you don’t have any roots at all and plant yourself and take over in some regard. It’s been important since day one to give back. We’ve done fundraisers and giveaways, we’ve brought in some local people from the Navy bases. Special needs kids. We’ve got a couple kids living on (the Ranch) who learned to surf here. We’ve provided some jobs here on the property. If somehow, that helps with the restaurants, creates excitement with kids from the schools, bring some concerts to town people come to see some events that we hold, that’s awesome. We want to be embedded with the local community we don’t want to be separate. Every time I go to Reyna’s Restaurant, I see Rey, the mayor, and we have a little pow-wow. It’s fun, I feel like we have a little home here. That’s what makes a lot of this stuff worth doing.
Do you see a lot of these facilities being built?
Hopefully so. I want to have a few of these and a real vibe around them so people enjoy their experience here. That’s a huge part of how we hired our staff. Everybody tells me how much fun they have surfing the wave but I get way more compliments on how good our staff has been to them. That’s a real pat on the back for our whole team.
Instead of winning heats now you have to wait in the clubhouse like golfers to see if you advance. How has that been?
I was the leader in the clubhouse for a long time going through the first round but then I quickly fell as the top seeds came in. Yeah, it’s kind of fun to see the pressure build. It’s a little bit of the elephant in the room, (none of us competitors) are really talking about it amongst each other, “oh this guy did that,” but you’re just kind of waiting on scores.