Kelly Slater has reached an interesting stage in his career. Some would give their left butt cheek to watch him surf competitively until he’s a crippled old man, creaking knees akimbo, back bent and hips displaced. Others, however, shout that he should retire immediately. “Make room for the youngsters, you crotchety old man!” they yell. “You should have quit while you were ahead!”
Both are right, as is always the case when it comes to opinions, but since Kelly Slater is Kelly Slater, what he thinks about surfing is a little more interesting than the guy spouting off in a dirt parking lot with his wetsuit pulled down around his waist far enough to show his hairy butt. So when the GOAT (hobbled as he is at the moment) sat down with Sports Illustrated to share his thoughts on the Olympics, his partnership with Breitling’s terribly-named “Surfer Squad”, and of course, sustainability, I thought it would be worthwhile to pick out a few of the more salient points from the conversation.
On surfing’s inclusion in the Olympics:
I do believe the best surfer in the world competitively wins the World Surf League title every year. We surf a number of different types of conditions and stuff. When you’re going for an Olympic medal, you have to be on that day, you have to feel good, your mind has to be in the right place. Whether it’s a course or whatever we’re going to be surfing, that type of wave has to suit your style and what you’re good at, either on your forehand or backhand in surfing. A lot of things to need to come together at one time. But it will be rarer than a world championship title will be.
Already within surfing, there’s already somewhat of a revolt against competition with some of the grassroots stuff. Some people think surfing is not a sport; it’s just more of a lifestyle, something you do. And then within that, you have more of the competition purists who think we should just have a world tour title and maybe we don’t need the Olympics. It’s a smaller and smaller percentage of people. But the Olympics open surfing up to a broader population of people that go, “Oh, cool, surfing in the Olympics, let’s check this thing out.”
There’s always that initial shock factor when there is a change that people have to get comfortable with and figure out what it means for them and the sport, but I think things will change once it settles in. To be in the in Olympics is a huge honor for any sport, especially in an emerging sport that is growing and is looking for acceptance outside of its hardcore population.
On Stephanie Gilmore:
Actually, Stephanie and I have been pretty good friends for a long time, she and my girlfriend are really close friends… I think Steph is probably the most naturally gifted female surfer of all time. She just matched the greatest number of world titles, with seven, and I think she could win a dozen if she wanted to. She’s just incredible and really relaxed and really carefree.
On (possible) retirement plans:
I haven’t made an official statement, but I have said that if I were to make the Olympic team in 2020 I would surf. I would probably make that my official retirement after that.
To read Sports Illustrated’s full interview click here.