Nobody seems to know how much longer Kelly Slater will be slipping on those contest jerseys. And since we can’t accuse the man of putting all his eggs in one basket, the surf world is certainly curious when Slater’s entrepreneurial endeavors will overshadow his competitive responsibilities. He finished the 2015 ‘CT ranked 9th on tour. He’s just turned 44 years old as the 2016 season is underway. Only a few months ago he gave the world the best manmade wave we’ve ever seen. He has his own clothing line. And the list goes on. There are a myriad of questions one could ask The King about his life and career today without even beginning to scratch the surface, which is the task American tv sports reporter Graham Bensinger recently took on by spending a day with Slater.
Bensinger and Slater apparently covered all this In Depth with Graham Bensinger. But one topic stands out a little more than others initially. When asked about surfing’s potential place in the Olympics the conversation edged toward wave pools and wether or not Kelly’s own wave would be pitched for competition.
“It’s interesting for Japan, because there’s a pretty strong surf culture there actually. But I think a wave pool in Japan makes a lot of sense… You can have exact start times and you know how to control your field and that kind of thing… It would be really interesting if a wave pool was a way to display surfing the first time in the Olympics.”
Naturally, Bensinger followed by asking if Kelly wants to compete in the games himself.
“If we finally get into the Olympics, and I’m physically fine, if I don’t have injuries and I get chosen by the States to surf in that, it’d be a huge honor,” he responded.
Slater will be 48 in 2020 when the Tokyo games. For anybody wondering where that puts the 11-time World Champ in terms of oldest Olympians and even medal winners, here’s where he stacks up: the oldest male Olympian is considered to be a Swedish shooter named Oscar Swahn, who competed in the 1920 games at 72 years old. We’d need Kelly to make the 2044 Olympic Surf Team in order to match that mark.
As for the sport itself, the International Olympic Committee will decide whether or not to include surfing in the games later this summer.
The rest of the episode, filmed in Malibu earlier this month, covers more of Kelly’s diverse interests and experiences. Slater explains the necessity of wave pools from a competitive perspective rather than commercially incentivized, point out that someday they’ll provide the only objective way to judge surfing.
“I think that we could create a good enough, high enough, high quality-enough wave in order to make the playing field totally fair for people,” he says. “It’s not like, ‘You got the lucky wave that came’ or ‘he read the conditions right,’ which is obviously, I think, a huge skill in surfing as well…I know we’re going to hold competitions in the pool at some point.”
But “business” aside, the interview also seems to dive into his personal life in ways that we rarely get to see. Kelly opens up about growing up poor and how alcoholism tore his family apart as a child. He talks about his relationship with his father, his search for a father figure through his 20’s, and when and how he became a man.
The full interview will air this weekend.
And here are a few more interviews we’ve done with Kelly that reveal more insight into the mentality of the greatest competitive surfer to ever live: