Kelly Slater Interview

Kelly Slater has a new book out, titled For The Love. It’s a telling, sincere and honest glance into the life of the nine-time world surfing champion. Slater talks about love, spirituality, war, friends and of course, his stellar career. His candidness, coupled with insight from dear friends such as Jeff Hornbaker and, yes, Pamela Anderson, makes for a fresh look into the life of a man many of us think we already know — myself included (Peff Eick? Trevor Hendy?). If you get a chance, I’d suggest you pick up this book. Co-author Phil Jarratt (and Slater) is to be commended for uncovering sensitive layers of Slater’s life and laying most of it out there. The inner circle of Kelly Slater is small, with this book, we’re offered a chance to penetrate the circle and hang with the best surfer ever. I caught up with Slater during his press junket promoting the book. — Scott Bass

SURFER: Let’s just get this question out of the way, World Title number 10 is staring you down, have you committed in your mind to the tour next year or is it a ‘wait and see’ mode?

KELLY SLATER: (sarcastically) Alright, that’s great, now that we’ve got that out of the way, what else are we going to talk about? (light laughter)

SURFER: I’m sure that you’ve been asked that question a thousand times.

KELLY SLATER: It’s funny because there has almost been a disregard for the ninth world title, from a lot of people and a lot of surf fans. Everyone is so focused on double digits, “are we gonna see double digits, are we gonna get to number ten. It’s the perfect number.” You know, it’s all semantics at that point.

SURFER: You had such a fast start in 2008 that the talk of world title number ten crept up rather quickly.

KELLY SLATER: Yeah, I mean I had such a phenomenal start. So many things went my way early one. To find myself with four wins after five events, definitely not something I expected to happen, so it was strange. It’s been an odd year; this play on numbers for me has been really bizarre. I was sitting on my eighth title in 2008, and then I win two events and then get a 17th. Then I win two more events and then another 17th, then I win one event then almost win two again in a row, I got a second. Then I got a 9th so I sort of kept this sort of even pattern going. It’s been a phenomenal year. I made a lot of good choices. Not only to go to the events, but then when I was there, I made a lot of good choices about how to approach heats, which boards to ride, what to do on the waves, that sort of thing. As you know there are a lot of decisions that go into how you approach a heat.

SURFER: Let’s talk some golf. Last year you and PGA Pro Pat Perez made quite a run in the Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Are you going to tee it up again this year?

KELLY SLATER: I am. I’m sure Pat and I will play the tournament again. It’s been a great tournament for him, as you would know, he was leading on 18 there one year and hooked it into the water, made a triple (bogey) and lost the tournament.

SURFER: Pat can be a fiery guy. What is it like when Pat hooks one?

KELLY SLATER: Well, the point of the story is that Pat is a really great player there, and, as they say, in those pro-ams you have to ‘ham and egg’ it. If one guy is having a bad hole the other guy has to play well on that hole. Last year we did that. I wasn’t playing very well, but I had a few phenomenal holes. I almost holed out for a ‘2’ a couple of different times… one on the first day and one time on the second day. The first couple of days we had some really good runs. We found ourselves in 4th after the second day. There are something like 180 pro-am teams and they only take like the first 20 teams… that make the cut. So it is pretty rare thing to make the cut.

SURFER: You’ve told me a story a few years back about playing golf with Miki Dora, what is that like?

KELLY SLATER: It is strange. I have this photo of Miki golfing that he wasn’t aware of. He was a little freaked out by cameras. We’re playing at this golf course in France. It’s Bruce Raymond, my friend and caddy — Belly who works at Quiksilver, myself and Miki, the four of us. It is Bruce and Miki against Belly and Me. Miki was such a bad golfer. He had the most horrible swing you’d ever seen. I don’t know how he did it but he made a number of pars during the round. Miki was a high double digit handicapper. But when it came to money and betting and stuff there is no way that guy would let a red cent go. So he would somehow figure it out. Every time I played with him there was some funny incident with money that would happen. So anyway, I snuck up behind him when he was talking a tee shot. I kind of held my camera by my side and shot from the hip and I got the shot. Miki has this terrible follow-through and there is this ball flying off straight in the distance. I have the print at home. I want to make a print with this fax that he sent me once about some golf clubs that I had purchased for him and auction it off for some charity that he might appreciate. He was a classic guy. I was really glad to spend some time with him. There were some people with not such great stories about Miki, but yeah, he was a legendary guy.

SURFER: Back to surfing Kelly. I’m of the opinion that the top 45 surfers should have to go compete at Sunset Beach while on the tour. What are your thoughts on this?

KELLY SLATER: Well my opinion might differ from Pancho Sullivan. I think I got second out there once to Pancho, and a third one year. I’ve done all right, but it has sort of been my Achilles heel. I’m a little up in the air about Sunset. I personally don’t think it’s a great wave competitively. It either has to be perfect four feet at Sunset Point or bombing eight feet-plus out the back. Anything in between is sort of unfair because it’s such a big, you know it’s a paddle fest; it’s not a surf contest. In my opinion there is too much paddling. You know the fans want to see stuff close up. It doesn't really happen at Sunset. But it is a very challenging wave.

SURFER: What wave or what venue do you think is missing form the Dream Tour?

KELLY SLATER: Um, gosh. I don’t know… I think it would be amazing to go to Peru. You know those left points at the right time of year. Morocco would be great. It would be difficult, but maybe somewhere up in Ireland. There are so many good waves up there. It would be really challenging. There would be a lot of driving, it would be tough to make the calls. The wind and weather and swell changes there so quickly. Pretty much anywhere in Indonesia. I’d love to see G-Land back on tour, way ahead of Sunset Beach.

SURFER: Speaking of G-Land, you and Shane Dorian recently took a helicopter over there and scored pretty good waves.

KELLY SLATER: Yeah I went to the Mentawais, to Kandui Resort, with Andy (Irons), Shane Dorian, Ross Williams and Pottz (Martin Potter) was with us too…and Sal Masekala. It was a pretty good crew, lots of fun. We were working on a little project. I had three or four days between there and flying to Africa. And it didn’t look like the swell would be good in Africa right away, so I hung in Bali with Shane-o for a few days. And we saw this really good swell on the map, a real south direction, which is good for Speedies, and I hadn’t surfed Speedies in like ten years, so we rented a helicopter and flew over for the day. The funny thing about is that everything is so cheap in Bali. It averages about a tenth of what things cost in the US. So I figured renting this helicopter might be cheap, but it was like $4300 round trip to rent the helicopter. So a pretty expensive day of surfing considering I only got a couple of good waves.

SURFER: Well, the book is ‘For The Love’ written by Kelly Slater and Phil Jarratt. Kelly thanks for your time, we really appreciate it.

KELLY SLATER: Thanks, catch you soon.