Yesterday, after winning his first round heat at the Quiksilver Pro, Gold Coast, Kelly Slater went for a long paddle. Rather than come in at the end of the Rainbow Bay bank where the contest was being held and walk back up to Snapper (which could easily have turned into an hour-long exercise, thanks to fans), Kelly chose to paddle back out to the point, through a whole lot of moving water, and come in at Snapper. When he got in, he was met with the usual swarm of autograph-hunters and media. With 20 personal recording devices pointed a little too closely at his face, Kelly lit up on the tour, his recent interview about performance-enhancing drugs, and Dane Reynolds. He was lucid and intriguing. If you’re like us, you’ll be interested in everything he said. So, here it is. All of it.
Photos: ASP/Kirstin (portraits), ASP/Carey (action)
On keeping up on tour: It’s spread out to a point where guys are older. The average age on tour has gone up and I don’t see why guys should get worse as they get older. Maybe at a certain point, like by the time you’re 50 and you start having chronic injuries, that’s gonna hold you back. But also it’s a mental thing. There’s a lot to keeping your mind open. You have to really get into the changes. When you’re not looking ahead to guys older than you anymore, you’re looking to guys younger than you for inspiration. You have to be open to that dynamic.
On competing against Dane: I’m just trying to hold on against Dane. He hasn’t beaten me and that’s only because I end up getting the better waves. I think that proves that it doesn’t come down to surfing, ’cause Dane’s pretty much everybody’s favourite surfer. Heats are a different thing, there’s technical things, and to be honest I don’t think Dane wants it for the same reason that people do, competitively. He likes to perform and that’s the beauty of Dane. It’s not his contest results, it’s the beauty of his expression. I love surfing against him, I wish I could surf against him at every event. But I know he’d start smashing me.
On Dane in general: Dane’s awesome for surfing. He’s such a unique individual. He just moves to the beat of his own drum. As far as I see, I don’t see him being influenced by anything other than things he loves. Which is really cool. So many times in sport things get pasteurised down to a norm and Dane’s an anomaly and an outlier. He’s a guy who’s pretty much every good surfer in the world’s favourite surfer and he doesn’t view the importance of competition the way that other people do. It opens people’s minds to other things.
On the new gen: Um, they’re amazing. Y’know, the base to their surfing is much more radical than guys my age. We were all learning from the older guys and the most radical thing to us was Pottz doing airs. He didn’t make a lot of airs, but he was always getting up high. Now, it’s airs, rotations, grabs, flips, and that’s what all these kids are looking to day in, day out. That’s the standard. You’ve gotta be able to start landing flips and full rotations and any kinda grab. You’ve gotta be able to do any kinda grab now, frontside or backside, to really stick with that level.
On the Courier Mail drug-use article: Let him (journalist Greg Stolz) explain it to you. ‘Cause there was a lot of things taken out of context. And I’ll take it up with Greg. But there were some things slightly out of context to create a point that he wanted to make. I did say that surfing’s just a microcosm of culture and society, and there’s drug problems in society, and there are in surfing as well, but it’s not any different to anything else in the world. Surfers are just people and I’ve seen surfers in recent years come clean and open about having used drugs. But it’s no greater or lesser than in any other culture. I just think it’s people. I think they’re private matters. I wanna say that I think Greg was trying to talk about performance-enhancing drugs, but surfing’s probably the cleanest sport that I know. I don’t know of anyone having used anything as a performance-enhancing drug, and I’d actually be really surprised if there was.
On surfers being tested outside of competition: Should I come to your house and test you? I mean these are people, these are lives, y’know? Those are private matters for people. I don’t think that anyone has the right to go and intrude on someone’s life, unasked.
On Answering more drug-use questions: I’m just gonna stand here and get bombarded with drug questions and it’s just silly, we’re here to surf and I live a clean life, and I have my own opinions but I don’t really care to share them with everybody.
On ZoSea, and retirement: Next year will be a really interesting, exciting year. I’d like the opportunity to stick around if I want to. Get a few results this year and requalify. There’s gonna be much better presentation of surfing and much broader things.
On having an amazing year and losing: It’s a little bit tough, I mean, that’s just part of life, I think I’m mature enough now to just enjoy what comes with it. If there wasn’t heartbreak there’d be no glory. They come together and somebody’s gonna experience one and somebody’s gonna experience the other. If being part of that mix makes it good for the other guy, that’s good with me.
On fulfilment: I don’t always like the pressure of the competition, like, “three minutes to go and you need an 8.30,” and there’s no waves. It’s so stressful and I actually hate that feeling. But the payoff for putting in your time and paying your dues…