Stab Magazine | This is not just another Kelly Slater interview

This is not just another Kelly Slater interview

Story by Craig Jarvis Everybody loves seeing Kelly Slater win. And just like he did at the Billabong Pipe Masters last month, Mr Slater took the biggest cheque at the Volcom Pipeline Pro this week. He is the unstoppable machine. He scored a 10, and a 9.83, and a 9.77. Pipeline was pumping. Big, thumping tubes. It […]

news // Mar 8, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Story by Craig Jarvis

Everybody loves seeing Kelly Slater win. And just like he did at the Billabong Pipe Masters last month, Mr Slater took the biggest cheque at the Volcom Pipeline Pro this week. He is the unstoppable machine. He scored a 10, and a 9.83, and a 9.77. Pipeline was pumping. Big, thumping tubes. It was totally complicated nu-swell conditions. No worries for the champ.

This makes it Kelly’s 66th ASP tour victory, his 8th win at Pipe, a great start to his 24th season on the pro tour and just before his 42nd birthday next Tuesday.

Yes, you probably want to read that whole paragraph again. I did.

So we lit up his phone, and busted him with some fun questions, some slightly more serious shit, as well as a difficult question about performance enhancing drugs. As per usual, Mr Slater replied with various levels of aplomb…

Stab: Do you ever get tired of winning? Seriously, has the thrill of victory dissipated over the years or do you still get that total rush of blood to the head when standing on the podium?
Kelly: (laughs) To be honest I still do get that rush you’re talking about, f’sure, but I can also think of a few things that aren’t nearly as good as the first time.

You and Pipe go back a long way. I remember a video from when you were still very small, dropping into a thick double up and everyone who saw it went ‘oh, dude charges as well.’ Do you remember that wave? I do. Very well. Every millisecond of it. It was my first year in the contest. That was sort of a life-changing wave for me. That was one you have etched in your brain that you didn’t realise was so gnarly until it was over. I think that after that wave nothing else scared me that bad. Larry Haynes was right on the shoulder filming it swimming.


Backdoor is a favourite tune. Photo: Brian Bielmann

Pipe has also been the home to bleak defeats. One in particular comes to mind: You getting held off a deal-breaking wave by Parko. What light does that memory flick? Frustration. Pure frustration. I really wished we had been in a two-man surf-off at the end of that contest, but it all happened the way it was supposed to, I believe.

Fear is a crazy thing. Do any kind of waves whatsoever at Pipe still make you a little bit scared? Certain situations and certain waves, f’sure. Absolutely. Pipe as a whole doesn’t scare me so much, but you can’t let your guard slip, or you’ll get yourself in a dangerous spot out there before you realise it. There were waves out there today that I couldn’t figure out how to catch.

Over the years at Pipe, who has been the best Hawaiian surfer out there? There have been lots of guys who have totally dominated. Sunny has always been dominant at Backdoor. Back in the day, Dane Kealoha was incredible at Backdoor. He surfed twin-fins in like, solid eight to 10 foot waves! Derek Ho at Pipe was, and still is, incredible, as well as Mike Ho. He’s always been great both right and left out there. I’d probably choose JBG (Johnny-Boy Gomes) for overall great barrel riding at Pipe and Backdoor. Obviously nowadays JJF (John John Florence) and JOB (Jamie O’Brien) are the guys owning it on a daily basis. So many initials…

You finished the year with a win at Pipe and now you’ve started the year with a win at Pipe. Which bodes well for a 2014 title. What are your feelings on the year ahead? Well, Pipe weighs in with zero impact towards the title but it is nice to start and finish that way. It definitely helped me feel back in the swing of things.


The line is always right. Photo: Brian Bielmann

Who are going to be the other four in the top five this year? Jordy could really come out swinging this year. He hasn’t come close to peaking yet or having a great year. His Achilles Heel is barrel waves on tour. So Pipe, Teahupoo and maybe France. He should put all his brainpower and practice into that. He needs no help with manoeuvres and carving. In fact he’s probably the most complete guy over those couple of categories. It’d be nice to see him right in the mix. I’m sure JJF and Medina are gonna be swinging for the fences from heat number one as well, and then Parko and Fanning for sure. Everyone’s hungry. It’s going to be a big year.

For most surfers, an ideal day of surfing is three foot Lowers-style waves, light offshore with no crowd. Describe Kelly Slater’s best Pipe freesurfing conditions. That would be December 21, last year. It was eight to 12 feet, west swell, with the occasional huge scary rights. That’s how I like it, pretty much. We all just wish the crowd was a bit mellower but that’s never going to happen again, is it?

Probably not. So, last year at the Quiksilver Pro a journalist made a vague allegation that you might be using performance-enhancing drugs. You replied, rather testily, that if he paid for the test you would do them again and again. Now that you’re a year older and still winning everything, do you think these rumours might be rekindled like I’ve just done right now? (laughs). I overreacted at the time, and that was silly of me. My point was that I have nothing to hide, and I thought it was a weird and an uncalled-for cheap shot at the time. It’s all good though, and I’m happy to take any test for anything whatsoever at any time. I’m really proud of my choices, but thanks a lot for bringing up a sore spot Jarvi.

Yes, sorry about that. Did you feel at any stage at the Volcom Pipe Pro that anyone was going to beat you? You looked so relaxed. I felt really good. I thought Wardo and Jamie were going be right in the mix and there are lots of super dangerous guys. Mason seemed most on a mission to me. I had a good backup plan if I lost though, because Haleiwa was going off, so I felt really calm, like there was no possible bad result.

So you won the event, and hot-footed it straight to the Pebble Beach Pro Am celebrity golf tournament. (Kelly will be hitting that little ball around with the likes of Kid Rock, Kurt Russell, Andy Garcia and Kenny G). You might need to think about slowing down a bit, but good luck there anyway. Thanks. I’m here in Pebble Beach alright. It’s raining, but it’s going to be fun.


Swooping beneath the drone, captured from a Red Cam by Thomas Carey.


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