This story is about time and memories. The time was 1995, a different kind of year, a watershed year when one era was ending in American surfing and another was beginning. We felt it then, in the many ways our lives changed so suddenly, so dramatically, and looking back on it from 17 years gone we are left in no doubt. It was the year Kelly Slater decided to own the world. It was the year he went to war.
He had won titles before 1995, he had appeared on Baywatch and started dating Pamela Anderson and had won the Pipe Masters. But he was only semi-realized potential. Only at the start of his dominance. No one, pre-1995, could have imagined Kelly Slater reeling off 11 and probably 12 and maybe 13 world titles. No one could have imagined that the young, bronzed boy from Cocoa Beach, Florida, would become the world’s greatest living athlete. But that is precisely what he became. Before 1995 he had won some. After 1995 he won everything.
Another Kelly Slater puff piece you say? Not exactly, for on the more important levels this is a love story, told in our own words and by our own actions. We are the children of the Kelly Slater era and we surf, in part, because of him. We have all proudly tacked big, bold Kelly Slater posters on our walls at one time or another. Perhaps, even, a poster featuring this very image. We have all gazed upon his rooster tailslides and his airs. Yes, we surf, in part, because of him. All of us. Or as Stab Magazine’s famed Derek Rielly once wrote, “Seeing Kelly Slater surf for the first time was like being led by the infant Jesus to the Promised Land.”
Kelly Slater was a force of nature once, and young. Now he is a bald icon, and old, but we continue to watch his every move. And that’s love.