Kelly Slater talks fear, growing old, death, sharks and more
He stole thunder from the World Tour by revealing his (game-adjusting) artificial wave, now Kelly Slater grants us a peek into his personal life. The King talks about his relationship with daughter Taylor, his view on sharks, his battle with age and how he feels about the time his mum sold her banjo so he could compete at Cornwall. Kelly the mortal, also shows a darker shade in the interview with The Guardian, reflecting on the death of loved ones and insecurity.
On his relationship with daughter, Taylor: "My daughter thinks I’m cool because I know Chris Hemsworth (the Australian actor who played Thor). She’s 19 now and has just graduated from college. We’re pretty close, but it wasn’t always that way. I’m realistic about my situation as a father. I’ve basically spent her whole life travelling and she was raised 99% by her mother."
On age: "I feel pretty old. Not mentally, just in my body. At the moment I’m training to overcome injuries so I can be strong for the next world tour [Slater has won 11 world championships, making him the youngest and oldest title holder at 20 and 39]. I’m not retiring. I have every intention of being 90 and surfing Hawaii’s Backdoor Pipeline."
On fear: "As a kid I had a fear of drowning. It stemmed from being in swim class when I was six: one of the instructors grabbed my head and thought it would be funny to hold me under when I didn’t have a breath. Well, that fucked me up for years. Later, as an adult, I had a flashback. I was on a huge wave, on one of the biggest surf days in Hawaii, and I could see him dunking me."
On motivation: "There isn’t an over-achiever in sport who is super-secure. If you have everything you need in life, you probably won’t push yourself to the point of an athlete. Some of the things that drive me go right back to my upbringing."
On death: "I have lost a lot of people in my life – maybe 40. The worry is that so much death desensitises you to grief somehow. The one I still cry about is Peggy. She was a lady from California, a sort of second mum who was murdered when I was 15. That’s not cancer or a car accident; that’s somebody taking a life."
On sharks: "You can’t stress about sharks. I mean, is it even hungry? The way I think about it is, there are 460 species of shark and 456 of them aren’t bothered about eating you."
On what drives him: "My ambition as a young surfer was to try to own homes in different places. I bought my first apartment in Australia when I was 20, and now I’ve got places in Hawaii, California and Florida. But Fiji is where my heart is and where I spend six weeks a year."
On relationships: "The stuff I learned from my parents was more by default than instruction. As I got older I realised that maybe they did love each other, but they weren’t good at knowing what they really wanted, or being open. It’s made me strive for something more in my relationships."
On OuterKnown: "I can’t really downplay my interest in fashion now that I have a fashion label. After 20 years with Quiksilver I felt it was time to create something that was sustainable and responsibly sourced."
On feeling the ocean: "When I’m really tuned in I can mind-surf. I can watch the waves from the beach and feel the movements in my body, which is kind of useful."
On regret: "My mum sold her banjo so I could go to a contest in Cornwall. I can’t help but still feel bad about that."