The Greatest Surfer?

posted by / Blogs, Editorial / October 3, 2011

After ASP World Tour victory No. 48, last month at Lower Trestles. Photo: Sherman

 

I spent the best part of Thursday evening chatting with Kelly Slater. He was kind, thoughtful, open, interesting, reflective and funny. And I couldn’t help but wonder, is he the greatest sportsman of all time?

Think what you will about competitive surfing, Kelly’s accomplishments are, beyond all doubt, amazing. He wins everywhere, from barreling perfect to shit beachbreak. He has won in whole different decades of competitive je ne sais quoi. He has beat the best for so long it is hard to picture a world without him.

But we will have to picture that world, that bleak, sad, ugly world because Kelly Slater will not last forever. He says that this is his last full season run. All things change and he may surf one more in full but it is doubtful. He is probably right this time.

And so, as the boys go to France then Portugal then San Francisco then beloved Hawaii we should, every one, doff our caps and watch the greatest sportsman of all time’s graceful exit from the main stage.

Cycling has Lance Armstrong, a turkey. Golf has Tiger Woods getting high on Ambien. Boxing has Floyd Mayweather rolling around on a Segway. Tennis has Bobby Martinez angrily denouncing something.

We have Kelly Slater. And we are better for it. —Chas Smith

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  • Al

    Well said Chas. But I have had a theory for awhile now and still believe that he will be done after he pulls the “double Jordan”. Wins 6, retires, wins 6 more, retires from tour for good.

  • TOMAHAWK WAVESHREDDER

    DEF SLATER IS PROBABLY THE BEST SPORTSMAN OF ALL TIME. BEING I REALLY CAN’T SEE OTHER ATLHETES IN BASEBALL, BASKETBALL AND FOOTBALL BEING ABLE TO SURF AND BEING A PRO LEVEL SURFER, I CAN PLAY ALL THOSE SPORTS AT THE SAME LEVEL. SLATER’S ALSO HAS MELLOWED IN HIS ATTITUDE COMPARED TO THE DAYS WHEN HE WAS YOUNGER. BUT EVERY COMPETIVE PERSON HAS GOT TO HAVE AN ATTITUDE TO WIN. EVEN THOUGH SURFING IS JUDGED ON YOUR SKILLS AND CAN SOMETIMES BE A POPULAR CONTEST, SLATER HAS A FEEL FOR THE CONDITIONS. HE ADAPTS TO WHATEVER MOTHER NATURE HAS TO OFFER AS ALL FLORIDA SURFERS DO, FROM 2 FT MUSH TO BOMBING 20-30 FT. SURFING NEEDED A SLATER TO REALLY PUT IT ON THE MAP AND HE DID A FINE JOB OF BEING THAT PERSON. CONGRATS TO SLATER!

  • Mario Maggio

    Agreed, Say what you will about “competitive” surfing but dudes an asset to the activity of surfing and having fun doing it.

  • Jim Dandelion

    “Je ne sais quoi”

  • Mik

    Kelly is the best athletic competitor in the world. After watching the Teahupo’o event, and his masterful attack in waves that could maim or kill, I look at the best of the NFL, MLB, NBA now and they look like school kids. Kelly’s the man, amongst men. Surfers rule, they always have, and Kelly is the most noble King that one could hope for. Great, and succinct comments Chas, specially the tennis smack.

  • sal

    cool read until the trite bobby gaff. you know you had second thoughts about that one

  • mattman

    haha, the bobby comment was the whole point. I finally like Chas smith.

  • BKH

    The fact that Kelly has dominated the sport for so long, set or broken nearly every record there is and continues to get better while playing “the game” at a whole nother level ahead of the rest of the pact, solidifies him in the stratosphere. Now he needs to slide over to the Big Wave World Tour and start collecting titles in that arena.

  • CardiffCrip

    Slater is good for himself. But like so many pros, he took the obvious route of exploitation. Instead of riding the wave with a message of surfing for the love of a beautiful experience, the beauty of ma ocean continues to be used like an old whore til everyone sees her as a thing to be taken advantage of, a theme to sell products. Fake imaging to make a buck. ‘Ya don’t know what ya got til its gone’ capitalistic justification to pimp out.
    I was lucky enough to have started surfing in an era when genuine innocense filled the water around surfing. Personally, surfing seems so contrived and artificial now. Don’t get me wrong, Slater is a great surfer. I just wish there was a way to not move ‘ahead’ so fast for the sake of making the next dollar, which influences kids from the simple enjoyment of surfing. Yes, I used this venue to take advantage of Slater just to voice my opinion on the bigger picture, much bigger than Kelly.

  • a dude

    i forget what outlet of espn covered this, but in something by them that talked about how kelly actually is the most dominate sportsmen of the last decade or more. he has more wins, and titles to his name for the longest period of time of any other athlete or sports team in recent time. the details are a little fuzzy but im sure you can google it

  • fart face

    not to take anything away from his accomplishments he’s the best, but ill shrug off the 11th title this year with ZERO enthusiasm because of how many heats he’s been pushed through this year.

    I know he will win, you know he will win, the judges sure as hell no he’s going to win. Probably in a final with owen to boot… It’s just so boring.

  • sheree bryant

    yep..what a wonderful man he’s grownup to be..surfed many a evening with him behind “island hut’……cocoa bch…smile..

  • Freaky Born Wings

    Kelly is without a doubt one of the most masterful and dazzling athletes of all time. But his competitive accom

  • tony (ty) carson big island

    Wow, thirteen replies to this article, I guess the vast majority of surfers are just not that interested in por, oops, I mean pro surfing. Chas says its hard to picture a world without keely slater, I can easily picture that, every time I paddle out and see a wave breaking. The real surfing experience,(lifestyle), has never been about competition, or idol worship, its about catching waves, hanging out at the beach with your friends, feeling the saltwater and the sand beneath your feet, and all the other good vibes that go along with it. We have the ocean, and the God given free waves, and we are better for it.

  • REXRICH

    Thanks to Slater for his accomplishments. And I agree with ty!
    Thank God theres is waves!!

  • Danker

    The vast majority of surfers don’t even go online to read these articles and all your ridiculous comments. I’ve spent 1 afternoon reading this shit and I see the same damn people comment over and over again. I know when slater was in sc for the cold water a month ago every solid surfer in town came out to watch… Mainly JUST to see slater surf. He is all-time and if you think watching slater surf is boring you don’t appreciate good surfing. Reading these lame comments from the same 10-15 people is boring. I’m wondering if half these people talking shit about the writers after every article even surf or you’re just wannabe writers that have no audience Except for these f*cking comment writing regulars. You all say nobody cares about what this chas kook says? Nobody cares about what all you kooks opinions are. Get over it, move on to another mag already then like I’ve heard threatened by the same people article after article. Or go write a book of your own explaining how your opinion of surfing is right.

  • Danker

    Like Cardiff crip… You wouldn’t take money to travel around the world and surf? You’re a liar.