In My Opinion…
The Kelly Slater retirement watch is officially “on.” Switched “on” when Slater decided against competing in Brazil. Of course the Pipeline Masters is coming up and Kelly will undoubtedly surf in that event. Nevertheless, until he commits to 2007, the retirement watch is "on." Now, for the record, I'm a big Kelly Slater fan. I'll be bummed if Slater opts out of the '07 campaign. So too will be the thousands of Slater fans worldwide. And perhaps no entity will be as bummed, and for a myriad of reasons, as the Quiksilver brass.
And in fact Quiksilver appears prepared to do something about it.
According to Australia's 'The Sunday Telegraph' newspaper, Quiksilver and Kelly Slater have entered into an agreement, or already have it under contract (no one is really saying anything specific), that should Slater win 10 world titles, he'll receive an incentive bonus check of $10 million US dollars. According to the report, Quiksilver would neither confirm nor deny the bonus, but the Quiksilver spin cycle speaks volumes to the articles validity. A bonus, or the want thereof, does seem to exist.
“I think you’ll find most elite sportsmen have bonuses written into their contracts," stated Quiksilver spokesman Johnathan Jenkins. Not the most cutting insight, but nevertheless, reading between the lines here clearly either the two parties have agreed to the bonus or Quiksilver is prepared to offer him one.
The article goes on to quote surfing legend Tom Carroll, who urges Slater to chase 10 titles, and adds psychology to the mix. “When you think about the way Kelly thinks, you would have to believe that 10 titles is on his mind. Ten is really in his sights now. Basically he could really nail his future with 10." Then the two-time world champion goofyfoot added some socio-economic determinism. "Kelly comes from a working-class, blue-collar background so the person inside him doesn’t disappear,” Carroll said. “He does know the value of a buck and he can get more comfortable. He can step into another realm with life if he won 10."
Is that the sound of Slater's arm-twisting?
"Quiksilver is Kelly and Kelly is Quiksilver," explained Quiksilver’s senior global team director John Shimooka. "We need him and he needs us and it’s a great partnership."
Hmmm, not sure about that. Maybe. I can however state the obvious, Kelly Slater is the reason every young grom in the world wants to ride for Quiksilver. It's not Luke Munro selling those boardies. It's not even Dane Reynolds. Not yet anyway.
Quiksilver should pay Slater the $10 million now. Up front. Today. Wire transfer. Cashiers check. Whatever. And the ASP should throw in whatever they can afford– maybe free breakfast burritos and a Fosters at all the tour stops. For that matter, so too should Billabong, Volcom, Channel Islands, Pac Sun and the rest of the surf industry ante up to keep Slater on tour. Surfer magazine and myself included. Hell, every one of us who loves the WCT 'dream tour' should pay a fair share. I'll pay.
Despite what some well-placed industry insiders think, the tour needs Kelly. And yes there are those who think it's time for Kelly to move on. They are wrong. Slater is why we watch. He and Andy Irons. Can you honestly tell me who is in third place on the tour right now? No. Can you tell me the name of Kelly's last girlfriend? Yes. Slater's brothers' names? Yes. Kelly's hometown? Yes. Kelly is celebrity and our culture can't get enough. My interest in a WCT event wanes dramatically if Kelly loses early. Luke Stedman vs. Victor Ribas- great surfers both; sorry, it does not interest me. Sorry, I've got to an email to prepare. Tell me who wins…or don't.
No Kelly Slater on tour means no Kelly Slater vs. Andy Irons showdown. The greatest rivalry this sport has ever witnessed.
Kelly Slater transcends the ASP tour and he transcends Quiksilver. Kelly Slater is surfing's Michael Jordan, the sporting world's version of a deity. Just as when MJ left the NBA, when Kelly Slater leaves the WCT interest in the ASP sermon will wane. It already has. Take a look. Slater bailed out on the Brazil tour stop this week. Smart money says a large upturn in California's GDP will take place this month.
The WCT may be a good sermon without Slater, in fact it may be great with guys such as Bobby Martinez preparing the text, but the congregation will shrink without Slater, at least on a short-term basis. Dwayne Wade (heir apparent number 3 to MJ) is a great NBA player. Have you seen NBA ratings lately? I've written numerous times that the ASP needs to develop other rivalries beyond Kelly vs. Andy. If Kelly leaves nobody wears the white cowboy hat. Nobody shoots the game winning 18-foot jumper. There is a void.
So I pronounce here today that we should all help Quiksilver pay Slater the $10 million bonus. I speak for all the 9-to-5 cubicle slaves that minimize their webcast window when the boss walks by. I plead for the working stiffs like myself that must listen to ASP webcasts wearing headphones as Shmoo and Pottz bag on Todd Kline. Lets pay the man. Let's pool our money. Let's all pay Slater.
Kelly, if your reading this I'm standing by for bank account information.
Come back on tour Kelly. So the world can watch again.