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Kelly Slater at Teahupoo

If Kelly Slater makes the 2024 Olympics at Teahupo’o, he says he’ll hang up the jersey. Photo: WSL

The Inertia

Kelly Slater is pretty famous for retiring. Or not retiring, I guess. Famous for almost retiring? Famous for saying he might retire? Anyway, people talk about Kelly Slater retiring a lot. Kelly, though, kind of just sits there with a wry grin, not giving away too much because it appears there’s not too much to give away. He’ll just retire when he’s ready to retire. And if he feels like coming out of retirement… well, he could do that. But recently, he said that he’s going to retire again. There is a caveat, however.

“If I make the Olympics, I’ll retire at the Olympics,” he said in an interview with The Guardian.

The Olympics are set for 2024, barring something super unlikely like a global pandemic that postpones them. The surfing portion of those Olympics will be held in Tahiti. At Teahupo’o, to be exact, which is a very good place to have the Olympics of surfing.

Although Kelly Slater isn’t dominating like he used to, he’s still a threat anywhere and everywhere. And with his competitive fire, it’s hard to imagine him hanging up the gloves without having surfed in the Olympics, especially considering how new its addition is. It seems almost blasphemous for the world’s greatest surfer to stop surfing competitively without ever having surfed in the world’s greatest sporting competition, doesn’t it?

Teahupo’o certainly is a place where Slater excels. He’s won there five times, just a tiny fraction of his 56 total career CT wins. Although Teahupo’o is a wave that Slater has a good history with, he’s still got to qualify for the Olympics in order to get there — which he knows won’t be easy.

“I’m really hoping to qualify for it, but I need to get my butt into gear,” he said. “The qualification process is going to be tough, but if I can get into the Olympics, the location the event is at in Tahiti – that wave really suits my strengths. So if I can get there I think I have a really good chance of a medal, but I think the harder part is going to be getting there, to be honest.”

As he gets older, Slater’s famous competitive fire is diminishing. It’s still there, to be sure, but it’s not burning quite as white hot as it did in his younger days. But the Olympics has thrown a bit more fuel on that fire.

“As a kid my goal was to win contests on tour and potentially be a world champion one day – that was really the peak of my idea about what my future might hold in surfing,” Slater continued. “With surfing coming into the Olympics at the last summer Olympics in Japan for the first time, it’s offered up this other potential goal to reach towards.”

While only time will tell if Slater’s retirement announcement actually comes to fruition, I for one am hoping Kelly Slater has a chance to go out with an Olympic gold medal around his neck.


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