Kelly Slater. 10 Points.
Photo by Zak Noyle
This is a subject that I have been meaning to devote an entire post to for a long time now. It's very serious. And it's very personal. And after he won the Volcom Pipe Pro this last week, I think it is finally time to discuss the virtues -- no, the awesomeness -- no, the godliness -- of Kelly Slater.
For those of you who don't know, Kelly Slater is the best surfer in the world. Often times the "best" is subjective -- a mere opinion. However, when it comes to Kelly, this is a fact. Not only is he the best surfer in the world on paper -- having won eleven world titles while the runner up, Mark Richards, won five -- but Kelly is the best surfer in the water.
I am not ashamed to admit that, like many people, for a long time I thought Kelly was over-hyped and overrated. That is because I had never really seen him surf. Then, in 2012 I had the immense pleasure of watching him surf Cloudbreak during the Fiji Volcom Pro. The lines he drew, the waves he chose and the barrels he stalled in were all the best. And I am not just saying this because he went on to win the contest, or because I got to shake his hand, or because he represents for USA on the World Tour. After watching Kelly surf I finally realized why everybody says he is the best. It's because he is.
Do you need more evidence? Ok, no problem. Let us cite the most recent contest at Pipeline, the Volcom Pipe Pro. For those of you who don't know, Pipeline is the gnarliest wave in the world -- the biggest, heaviest barrel. On one wave in particular, Kelly made a late drop into a monster of a left, recovered after submerging more than half his board under water, did a huge bottom turn in the barrel (hands free -- didn't grab the rail), and just barely made it out of the barrel under the lip. I know it is hard to comprehend how unbelievably gnarly and insane that is. I have a hard time with it too. But, like quantum physics, nuclear chemistry and other mind-boggling ideas, we just have to accept. Except that with Kelly, we have visual evidence right before our eyes.
Do you have any idea how gnarly this is?
Photo by Jeremiah Klein
A few days shy of 42 years old, Kelly won a contest at Pipeline while competing against people half his age and younger. His experience, his competitiveness and his commitment to surfing for as long as he can has changed the way we view the sport. He is instrumental in new designs for surfboards, fins and fin set-ups. You can count on seeing people out at your local break surfing his models of boards. He is a trendsetter and pioneer in the surf industry. He reads the ocean better than any other surfer, sees waves that nobody else does, and makes the unmakeable.
But the thing I love most about Kelly Slater, aside from his humility and willingness to sign autographs and take pictures with fans after his heats, is his love for surfing. After every heat he won he was interviewed and in every interview he said something to the effect of, "I just want to get back out there." Kelly didn't enter the Volcom Pipe Pro because he wanted to win the contest, he entered because he wanted to surf his favorite wave (Pipeline) with three other guys. He won because he is the best.