One of the many questions Kelly Slater is asked over and over again is, “How have you won so many titles when you grew up in a place with no waves?” The easy answer is that he wanted to show the world that he could. Tell Kelly he can’t do something and you’ve pretty much guaranteed that he’ll do it. Kelly hasn’t lived full time in Florida since he was in high school (back in the days when budding surf stars actually went to high school and graduated), but the Sunshine State is still near and dear to his heart. In fact, he’s there right now.–Jamie Tierney
SURFING: What influenced you as a kid growing up on the East Coast?
Kelly: When I was a little kid, I looked up to all the guys at the Islander Hut surf shop in Cocoa Beach. Then Matt Kechele started taking Sean and I down to Sebastian Inlet a lot in the early '80s, and I looked up to all the guys there. Futch, Klugel Bros, Hartley, etc. were all out on most days. We really looked forward to the ESA championships in Hatteras every year, and to the US championships. We really wanted to prove we belonged in the water with the guys from the West Coast because we were basically second-class citizens to them. I think we just wanted to prove ourselves.
S: How did growing up in Florida influence your personality?
K: I liked growing up in a small town but I also wanted to travel the world and see everywhere and meet people.
S: Who was the biggest influence on your life?
K: My parents, brothers and friends were all really important. Then my heroes, too — the guys I looked up to. Parents start it all for you, though.
S: Who was the biggest influence on your surfing?
K: Matt Kechele was a huge influence, but when I was about 8 years old I started really looking up to Buttons. Tom Curren, too, once I grew even older. Buttons was my guy though. I thought he could go upside down under the lip and stay on his board. That was the future to me.
S: Who influences you now in your surfing?
K: Lots of people in small ways, and a few in big ways. Shane Dorian is probably the biggest push for me. We’ve always psyched each other up for all sorts of waves, from tiny to huge, and we just pushed each other mentally. And I always look to the latest and newest stuff from Dane and even the younger crew. I like progression and I like balls-to-the-wall guys who aren’t scared. They’re going places that few people on earth will ever understand.
S: Who influences you now in your life?
K: Good people, especially those close to me. I try my best to feed off of positive humans and learn from the interactions that I have with absolutely everyone.
For more of Kelly and his Eastern Seaboard homeland, head to your local 7-11 for a hot dog and our January issue.