Is Taro Watanabe's Middle Name Actually "Kelly Slater?" - Stab Mag

Is Taro Watanabe’s Middle Name Actually “Kelly Slater?”

Regarding the self-fulfilling qualities of nomenclature.

cinema // Jun 21, 2023
Words by Holden Trnka
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Nominative determinism is the ‘the theory that people gravitate towards jobs or interests that are connected with their name in some way’

As a writer named Holden who coincidentally shares a birthday with J.D. Salinger, I myself seem to have fallen prey to the self-fulfilling properties of nomenclature.

And, for the past few months, I’d heard rumors that Taro Watanabe — Brad Gerlach disciple and Malibu fin thrower — was repping the middle name “Kelly Slater.”

I assumed it was a joke.

But, when the above clip slid into my DM’s via filmmaker Quinn Graham, I figured it was as good a chance as I’d get to ask Taro about his own fate-twisted appellation.

An incredible example of the phenomena.

Turns out…

“It’s true,” Taro Kelly Slater Watanabe laughs, obviously having heard the question before. “My dad just really loves surfing. Kelly is one of the best surfers in the world, and I think Dad just really wanted me to surf. He kinda manifested it, it’s pretty funny. I’ve actually spent some time with Kelly, because Brad [Gerr] is good friends with him.

I don’t see a lot of him, but when I do he’s always super cool and encouraging. He definitely looked startled when he found out about my name, he was laughing and didn’t really believe it. No one does. But it’s on my passport.”

Earlier this year, Taro finished second at the Steamer Lane Coldwater Classic — blowing past current World #1 Griffin Colapinto and recent Challenger Series winner Cole Houshmand in a frenzy of upside down blowtails and stylish knees.

“That was pretty insane, you don’t ever really get to compete against guys like Griffin and Kolohe and Nat Young,” Taro told me. “Growing up in California, those are the older guys I’ve looked up to — it was sick to be there with them and pushing my level.”

Despite the result, Taro narrowly missed out on Challenger Series qualification, finishing in a four-way tie for 5th place on the North American QS. Crosby Colapinto had the tiebreaker.

Watanabe has spent the past few months chasing waves to Sumbawa and South Africa as he films a new clip and waits for next year’s QS season to start.

Above, he gives us a tease of his trademark elasticity at second point Malibu — and at a wave that looks suspiciously not like second point Malibu.

Enjoy, and await the day some kid from Florida is born with the name Eric ‘Taro Watanabe’ Smith.


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