Kelly Slater’s impact on surfing mirrors the 90s Internet revolution. A piece of new technology originally dismissed as a cute, space-age toy that ended up changing the world in every conceivable way — from performance to money to records to design to longevity. Before Kelly, surf stars were just that: surf stars. After? They were highly paid, professional athletes with international appeal and limitless possibilities. The scariest fact? He’s still not finished.
Slater got his feet wet on the bunny slopes of Cocoa Beach, a sleepy Central Florida town made famous by a sexy, prime-time genie in the ’60s. Cocoa Beach, in Slater’s estimation, is as good a place as any to inherit a solid foundation as a surfer. “It breaks farther out,” he says, “so it’s easier to learn. If I had the choice of learning in Florida or Hawaii, I’d choose Florida. You don’t try to run before you can walk.”
And given his resume, no one would argue. As a preteen, Slater showed flashes of the right stuff. Tossing his freakishly limber frame around like a gymnast and equipped with an insatiable lust for perfection, he quickly entered the spotlight.
As a perennial amateur champion — six Eastern Surfing Association and four national titles — Kelly Slater surfaced in the media with his brother Sean in Sundek boardshort ads during the mid-’80s. By the time he was ready to join the pro ranks in 1990, he was a household name. After a well-publicized bidding war that included some major mainstream apparel companies, he kept true to his surfing roots and went with Quiksilver. Kelly Slater in Black and White, a 30-minute Quiksilver promo video, was the first public offering of his explosiveness and creativity.
In his first full year on the tour, at age 21, Kelly Slater solidified the hype by claiming the world title — the youngest ever to do so. But more than that, he ignited a revolution. Exposed by videographer Taylor Steele’s Momentum flicks, Slater ushered in the New School of surfing. Gone were the days of letting the wave dictate the ride. Slater drew lines never before imagined, not even from drawings on your high school notebooks.
The best surfers in the world, mesmerized and feeling inadequate, studied his every heat. To the point of boredom, he would almost play dead in the early stages before mounting an inconceivable late-heat comeback. Everyone else looked silly.
But Kelly Slater could look silly as well. On land, he tested the opportunities afforded him through his hero status and Hollywood looks. A stint as Jimmy Slade on “Baywatch”, the most popular show in the world, satisfied his curiosity for acting outside the occasional cameo. A musical endeavor with friends Rob Machado and Peter King, where the trio adopted the hokey name “The Surfers,” yielded a major record release and a U.S. tour. An off and on relationship with Pamela Anderson Lee kept his name rolling in the mainstream press.
Meanwhile, Slater continued to rack up world titles. After an unprecedented six – including five consecutive crowns — he eased into semi-retirement at age 26 with nothing left to prove. Or so he thought.
Engaging in extremely limited competition in 1999, Slater returned to Hawaii for the season-ending event — the Pipe Masters. In maxing conditions, he greased the field — including new world champ Mark Occhilupo — for his fifth Masters crown, repeating the effort in 2000 at Teahupoo. But he’d already beaten the old guard once. It would take a new generation of young punks to fully stoke his competitive fires.
Enter Andy Irons. While world CJ Hobgood would be the first post-New School world champ, Andy Irons was the first to trumpet a true regime change. After winning his first title in 2002, the year Kelly flirted with coming back, Irons added his second straight world title by beating Slater in a 2003 Pipe Masters Showdown, following a year when both surfers were on fire, each winning four comps before Hawaii. For the first time in his life, Kelly had a true rival. A competitor who didn’t melt before he ever hit the water.
“To get that close,” he later understated. “To lose in the end like that was a tough thing to take.”
Rattled by the loss, a worthy foe and new feelings, he used the next year as a learning process, then decided to let go of the pressure. And the second he started focusing on having fun, the wins came to him. Kelly took both the 2005 and 2006 crowns. And when he won six events in 2008 for his ninth world title, he’d officially beaten four distinct generations of surfers over 16 years: the 80s power brokers; his own crew of innovative New Schoolers; the Coolie School/Generation Now; and finally, the Jordy Smith /Dane Reynolds future squad.
Along the way, Slater stockpiled an insurmountable mountain of records: both the oldest and youngest world champ; most WCT Victories (41); six Pipe Masters Wins; the highest two-wave total (20 points); the most prize money (more than $2 million) and the first ‘seven-figure’ salary — not to mention 14 Surfer Poll wins and a Quiksilver Eddie Aikau big wave victory.
He also proved himself to be the biggest surf star ever of the water. People Magazine named him one of their ” 50 Most Beautiful People.” Hollywood embraced him, linking the bachelor to super models (Gisel Buchen, Bar Refaeli) and movie sirens (Cameron Diaz.) Co-wrote two books (Pipe Dreams and For the Love). Designed his own video game. (Kelly Slater Pro Surfer). Worked on a 3D IMAX film. (The Ultimate Wave Tahiti). Created the Kelly Slater Foundation to benefit philanthropic causes. Even came close to launching his own damn pro circuit — the so-called “Rebel Tour” or “Champions Tour” — which, in 2009, threatened to steal the sport’s hugest names by promising bigger bucks, fewer surfers and a shortened schedule until the ASP quashed it by making similar changes.
But looking forward, Kelly’s longest lasting impact — and most personally fulfilling creative project — may end up being his love affair with surfboard design. A foam-and-fiberglass philosopher throughout his career, in 2007 he put more than 20 years experience riding for Al Merrick into shaping is own equipment. He immediately began working on shorter, stouter, more maneuverable blades. Long crucified for popularizing the 90s trend toward ultra-thin ‘chip’ boards that were almost impossible for average surfers to paddle, much less ride this new approach seemed to be a more user-friendly reparation for past sins.
As he told Surfing Magazine: “I could see you riding any wave of any size on a board as tall as you are.”
When he won the 2008 Pipe Masters on a four-fin 5’11″ — later dubbed “The Wizard Sleeve” – pundits predicted the coming year to be make-or-break for his ideas, only to finish sixth in 2009, despite switching back to more traditional boards midway through.
Some argued the writing was on the wall: Nine is enough. Time for Kelly to finally retire — for real. Play some golf and guitar. Settle in with his longtime San Clemente girlfriend, visit his daughter back and Florida, show up at the big parties and keep tinkering in Al Merrick’s tool shed.
But there’s something they’re not considering. The thrill of the challenge. Guys like the deadliest combo of staggering style, power and stunt-punts to hit the ‘CT yet: guys like Dusty Payne and Owen Wright, who threaten to redefine pro surfing. Surfers who promise to come every new season. It’s just that type of rebellion that’s drawn King Kelly back into the ring in years past. And as Slates himself has already stated: “Ten does have a nice ring to it.”
– Jason Borte (updated, March 2010)
Kelly Slater Official Site
World champion surfer Kelly Slater – www.kellyslater.com.
Birthdate: February 11, 1972
Birthplace: Cocoa Beach, Florida
Kelly Slater has revolutionized the way people think about riding waves, has a video gamenamed after him and put out his own album of surf music. There’s no doubt that Kelly deserveshis nickname of the Michael Jordan of surfing.
Kelly Slater – Growing Up
Kelly Slater first jumped on a surfboard when he was a kid near his home in Cocoa Beach, Florida. His dad owned a bait and tackle store near the ocean, so Kelly would be at the beach searching for big waves almost every day after school – and sometimes even before school. His dedication paid off and by the time he was a teenager, Kelly Slater had a reputation as one of the best surfers around. He was appearing in surf magazines and even had an agent. Kelly won his first world title in 1992, at the age of 20, making him the youngest world champion ever.
Kelly Slater – Pro Career
In his 15 year pro surfing career, Kelly has a record eight world titles and 33 WCT (WorldChampionship Tour) victories. He has won all over the world including Hawaii, Australia, France, Japan and South Africa. He’s also competed in the 2003 and 2004 X Games. Kelly Slater took the sport to a new level by trying “skate style” tricks and going for big air off waves – rather than long elegant carves, which was the style of most old-school surfers. His accomplishments have cemented his rep as the world’s greatest surfer.
Kelly Slater had a reoccurring role on the TV show Baywatch in the early ’90s.
Kelly Slater’s favorite hobby to relieve stress is fishing.
Kelly Slater has been romantically linked to Pamela Anderson, Gisele Bundchen andCameron Diaz.
Kelly Slater has a daughter named Taylor.
Kelly Slater once had a band that was fittingly called The Surfers.
Kelly Slater released his autobiography, Pipe Dreams: A Surfer’s Journey, in 2003.
Kelly Slater once has a video game named after him called Kelly Slater’s Pro Surfer.
Kelly Slater’s favorite places to surf are Hawaii and Australia.
Kelly Slater Says…
“Right now I have this sense that I’m soaking it up and enjoying it as much as I can because I know that pretty soon it’s going to change.”
KEY: O= Original, R= Repaired, RF= Refurbished. Condition of board rated: 1(worst)-10(best)
Length: 5′ 4″
Width: 18″ 7/8
Thickness: 2″ 1/2
The Wizard Sleeve. Only 50 of these were made and signed by Slater Himself. This is number 6. I have yet to confirm if Slater shaped a portion of this board, but in a short interview with him, he did indicate a shaped approx 20 of them. Well, at least we know his hands were on the blank, as he inspected and signed the foam. I also have board 34 - 5 inches longer and 1/4 inch thicker of which I have been using as a rider. This board rides great in the tube and paddles like a short board 6 inches longer. The only draw is all that extra foam from the halfway point to the nose for going off the bottom straight up, sometimes grabs. but overall – impressed! Acquired this from Jacks in HB. (10) o
Length: 6′ 1″
Width: 18″ 1/4
Thickness: 2″ 3/16
Slater personal rider 04/05 season. I acquired this board from Bashams in San Clemente and he acquired it out of OZ, of which Slater left it behind. Hand shaped by Al Merrick for Kelly with AMs initials in the Fish (Al’s TradeMark) If you people did not know. I have not cleaned it up, tail pad has been removed. Good overall condition. (8) o
Length: 6′ 1″
Width: 18″ 3/4
Thickness: 2″ 7/8
Well, Well, The Hand Print Board. Famous KS Trademark during his campaign run for number 9. 2008 season. This board was part of his Fiji Quiver. I acquired it thru CI’s Team Manager Assistant, Amanda. Great find and stoked to own it. This is board is the ferrari of surfboard design and precision for the king himself. AM hand shaped, you put this under your arm and you just feel speed and power! You know what I mean? Melts in your palm and screams “Rail Me”! amazing board. (9.5) o
Length: 6′ 5″
Width: 18″ 1/4
Thickness: 2″ 1/4
This is one of two boards I acquired out of Hawaii. These boards were part of Kelly’s Hawaiian Quiver during 07/08. I am sure built for Pipe in mind. Again, AM hand shaped. I am blessed to have these boards as they are in pretty good shape and the fact they were part of his Hawaiian arsenal, is just to bitchen. (9) o
Length: 6′ 9″
Width: 19″ 1/4
Thickness: 2″ 5/8
Well, not sure if this is to collectable, but I thought it was a cool piece of history as only one of kind and was used as a Store Display for the Quik Store in Sebastian Spain. While I was in Europe in 2009, I persuaded the shop owner to sell it to me as a memento token of my travels to Europe. With the dollar being so strong, if you get my sense of humor I paid a good premium for it. But, find another here in the States. As you won’t. True Classic. Oh, those are photo prints burned on rice paper and then glassed over on the deck. (10) o. Unknown who the shaper was, but I believe this was made out of Hossengor France.
Length: 7′ 2″
Width: 18″ 1/2
Thickness: 2″ 3/16
This is two of two of the KS Hawaiian Quiver. Gun! Hand Shaped by AM for Kelly most likely for Pipe. Bitchen!! (8) o
Length: 6′ 1″
Width: 18″ 1/4
Thickness: 2″ 5/16
This Board is hands down the most photographed board I have of Kelly’s personal riders. See above photo. Also featured in many books, movies etc. In speaking with kelly it is one of a few that were made for him. Well ridden, tail buckled. Kelly beat the shit out of these. Hand shaped by AM in the late 90′s. I have yet to clean the wax off the board since I acquired this on Ebay from a charity fund raiser by a hollywood talent house. (7) o
Length: 6′ 0″
Width: 19″ 1/4
Thickness: 2″ 3/8
Length: 5′ 8″
Width: 19″ 1/2
Thickness: 2″ 3/8
Bradshaw >> Tyler Warren on his Board of Choice at the U.S. Open Pacifico Noseriding Invitational 2012 >> U.S. Open of Surfing 2012 – Meaning Of – by Kelly Slater, John John and Julian Wilson >> Kelly Slater | US Open of Surfing 2012 Post Heat Interview >> Kelly Slater | Part II | U.S. Open of Surfing 2012 >>