PIPE DREAMS: A SURFER’S JOURNEY

posted by / Magazine / July 28, 2003

The following passage is an excerpt from six-time world champ Kelly Slater’s recently released autobiography. To put it in perspective, Kelly is coming off winning the 1992 ASP World Title and is discovering that the crown isn’t a band-aid for his problems. Here, he discusses two situations that came to a head in 1993, the repercussions of appearing on a cheesy television show and the scary side of fame. –JB

CHAPTER 7. Things Fall Apart

One sunny September morning in 1992 on a beach somewhere in Southern California, I woke up in my van, stepped out onto the beach, and went surfing. After meeting a pretty lifeguard and teaching her how to surf, the day got ugly. A gang of heavy locals who called themselves “The Shooters” started hassling me for surfing at what they considered to be their spot, and their leader challenged me to a surf-off. I wasn’t backing down, but it turned out to be a trap. The Shooters had run barbed wire across the lineup, and I ran into it and nearly drowned. Fortunately, David Hasselhoff happened to be cruising past in his lifeguard jeep and came to my rescue. “Stay still,” he commanded. “Don’t move. I got you!”

Okay, it wasn’t me he saved, but {{{Jimmy}}} Slade, my television character on Baywatch. It was my acting debut, an episode titled “Tequila Bay.” Being on the show was something I did against my better judgment. I was nave to the bigger picture, but my manager Bryan and my mom thought it would be a great boost for my career. It happened so quickly that I didn’t have time to stop it.

When I was in first grade, Steve Martin was my hero, and I wanted to be an actor. After that my aspirations for TV and movies took a back seat to surfing. I was in a couple plays in school, but I always forgot my lines.

In the beginning of 1992, Bryan said he was trying to get me on a TV show, and I brushed it off with a “Yeah, yeah. Sure.” If it happened, I figured I could turn it down at that time.

Next thing I knew, I was called in to do a reading for a television show called Baywatch. I didn’t know much about the show, except that people watched it for the slow-motion shots of girls with big boobs running down the beach in tiny bathing suits. I had heard people making fun of it, but I’d honestly never seen it. I read lines for a character named Jimmy Slade. Jimmy was a surfer who lived in the back of his van and had dreams of turning pro. I did a horrible job, partly on purpose but also because I was a little nervous. When I finished, they said, “Okay great. You got the job.” I was thinking, “What kind of show is this?” There must have been people who could have read it a lot better than I did. I later found out that they created the part just for me. Next thing I knew, I was Jimmy Slade, with a contract for two seasons on the show . . . From the book PIPE DREAMS: A Surfer’s {{{Journey}}} by Kelly Slater. Copyright C 2003. Published by arrangement with Regan books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

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