Hope Floats

posted by / Magazine / October 1, 2013

Hope Floats
Illustration by Noa Emberson

Current Issue“They call me Dope Man, Dope Man. I try to tell ‘em I’m where hope floats, man.”
—Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter

A few months ago Kelly Slater was unbelievable some more. This time, in four straight heats at Cloudbreak, he got a 9 and a 10, then got two 10s, then beat John John Florence by a score of 10, then combo’d Mick Fanning — in part by getting another 10.

This is unbelievable from a few angles. It’s unbelievable prima facie, just based on the surfing and the scores, with no further context. It’s unbelievable because Kelly’s 41. It’s unbelievable because he’s been unbelievable since John John was conceived.

But unbelievable is a funny word. We use it to mean awesome when it really means dubious, far-fetched, implausible. And I wonder at what point Kelly’s unbelievable feats make that semantic jump from impressive to downright suspicious.

Specifically, I wonder when we start to wonder if he’s doping.

People quip about this all the time but it’s usually just reverential overstatement — like, “Motherf–ker is so good, they should test him for steroids.” I don’t really think they should test him for steroids — no one who finished high school does — and none of what follows implies real wrongdoing. It’s just that, hypothetically…

What if?

What if we found out tomorrow Kelly’s been doping all along, needles and blood bags, Lance Armstrong in a wetsuit? Since Fiji I can’t suppress the thought — all the seeds of consequence that would grow out of that discovery, the practical aftermath, the cleanup, the future.

So let’s see what that looks like.

First there’d be the matter of reassigning all of Kelly’s wins by default to the three generations of his victims. Rob Machado, Mick Campbell, Shane Beschen and Powell would all be new world champions. Damien Hardman would get another title. Andy Irons would have five instead of three, posthumously making him the winning-est surfer of all time.

And with regard to Andy, a doping revelation would change everything. It’d twist the dynamic of his and Kelly’s rivalry into a tale of two drugs, self-destructive versus self-serving, one more tragic but much nobler in the court of public opinion. Andy’s cult would grow without ceiling in the manner of the young and dead, the Deans and Monroes and Cobains and the Hendrixes. Both men’s stories become sad in the end; nobody wins.

On a lighter note, Tony Ray would be an Eddie champ after all. Nice up-turn for Tony.

In that vein there’d be no small amount of schadenfreude among all those pros who slammed, by accident of birth, into the age of Kelly’s domination. A lot of guys who should have been great were instead reduced to bit players in the Slater story and a few must still be bitter about it. Through a scandal the retired ones, maybe, could feel redemption and be satisfied, having already enjoyed their slice of the massive commercial pie Kelly’s been baking for the surf industry, mostly by himself, since 1990.

But current pros would be f–ked as follows:

First they imagine a brief false glimmer of opportunity in Kelly’s fall, a sudden power vacuum they can fill — and then the floor drops out. The sport’s mainstream dreams evaporate as its one transcendent human narrative from the last 20 years goes up in a blood test, taking with it all the fan interest invested in Kelly’s career to date. That’s interest fans can’t get back. They’ve been burned; they aren’t keen to start from scratch with this Mickey Mouse pseudo-sport that can’t see obvious cheating when it stares down from a podium 53 separate times. People turn disillusioned to the UFC.

So that part’s too bad, for pro surfing at least. (Actual surfing is mostly unaffected.)

Now, in a way this kind of doping scandal would make sense — a reasonable symptom of our experiment with money and professionalism. As the stakes grow, so do the lengths to which surfers will go for an edge. First it was training and sobriety, then the retention of an entourage, and soon, what’s a little HGH? If not Kelly you have to think it’ll be someone; if not doping, it’ll be something else.

Which leads us inevitably to the Laurence Fishburne tinted-pill question: Would you really want to know? Would you want to go down the rabbit hole? If Kelly Slater and all he represents were a massive chemical sham, and that revelation would nuke the surf world as we know it, would you even want the truth?

Or would you rather Kelly slip into a dignified retirement at age 50, with 20 world titles and, strangely, in the best shape of his life, as an enduring icon of human achievement?

It’s probably best to reiterate that SURFING doesn’t think Kelly’s ever cheated, at anything. But that’s not really the point.

Kelly’s where hope floats, man. And maybe this is for the best. —Clark Franklin

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  • Asa

    Is this Surfer magazine or the National Inquirer? Maybe Slater has an alien baby too? Nothing worse for a sport than attacking its’ best athlete with unfounded accusations. You can’t play this off as a “what if” article; you are accusing him. Period. Either back the shit up, or step the fuck off.

  • Mike

    Thanks for wasting two minutes of my life. I hope Kelly Slater slaps a rear naked choke on your ass and puts you to sleep for ‘hypothetically’ besmirching his good name and legendary achievements.

  • K.J.

    I can’t believe Surfing magazine actually posted this article. I wasted my time reading this. Here is a guy try to make a money and 15 minutes of fame by attacking not only Kelly but also late Andy Irons. Well, Clark Franklin, you succeeded but I got no respect for you buddy.

  • Matt

    Im sickened to read this bullshit. Whoever wrote this stupid article its a sad attempt to bring attention to his own name. Kelly respects his body and health far too much to mess around with chemicals like that and thats the reason why he’s been champ for so long.
    Long Live Slater!

  • Eddie

    I can believe how “Surfing Magazine” published this Article, I used to buy this magazine and I say I used because never again. Attacking someone like that only because is good with NO real proof whatsoever, whoever wrote that article doesn’t know crap about Kelly, Andy the guys that he mentioned or surfing for this matter. I just want to say that this article was one of the worse stupid bullcrap I ever read.

  • bob

    Clark Franklin was an alias if i ever did hear one. Brad Melekian? is that you?

  • u nuts

    such a useless article

  • chesh

    KS using enhancing performance drugs. KS does not even drink store bought milk. Clark Franklin or whomever you are you are a douche bag!

  • Shawn Colliflower

    Piss poor reporting


    Wow, Clark. Prepare to be verbally keel-hauled by the entire surfing community.

  • Luca

    I’m reading the same kind of angry answers which were addressed towards those having doubts against Armstrong…

  • Jimmy the Saint

    It wasn’t so long ago that to question Lance Armstrong’s acheivements would lead to ridicule. It is right to question the achievements of any professional athelete, especially those who are extremely successful. Do I believe that Kelly cheats – no I don’t , but if this is to be seen as a legitimate sport then it is only right that those who report on it enquire that there is nothing dodgy going on. This is a poorly written and cowardly article, if you suspect something is going be a proper journalist and start digging to see if you are right. I don’t have an issue with journalists doing their job – which is to find out and report the truth. If one of the top pros failed a drugs test would it be in the best interest of surfing media to report it? I doubt it, but I personally would like to know.

  • suck my balls

    anyone on here realize this is a joke? it’s fiction. as in, not real.

    the last one i read was based on the topic of an iraq concentration camp where they make people train in a wave pool or some shit. if you actually did subscribe to “SURFING magazine”, then you must not read the magazine because “this has everything to do with surfing” has been a monthly column since the evan slater era.

    funny though. people suck slater’s balls so hard that they would back him at the first hint of negativity without thinking it through. my advise: read the article, laugh, and don’t take yourself so seriously all the time

  • anyone

    Wow, projection anyone else?

    Editorial train wreck, the end of Franklins green light to type.

    Kelly endures because his lifestyle is pure to surfing. Never got distracted, never became complacent. Dude owns this competitive style and is driven to win.

    As bad as it is to read this vacant drivel on a blog, the thought of someone publishing this in print is profoundly shocking. I can think of two firings from one mistake.

    What’s next month Surfing? If Alana were a porn star, what type of fetish flms would she most likely star in? Ok, how about if Sunny went to jail for every real criminal act he has committed, would he be in prison in Cali, Hi, or Australia?


  • KT

    What a stupid article.
    Basically calling him out for no reason then running to hide behind the bushes.

  • michael

    Everything should be questioned it is the way to better answers.

  • Joe McG

    What a bunch of irresponsible bullshit! For the sake of balance, how about floating an article on the web depicting Surfing Magazine’s staff selling drugs from an ice cream truck in a school yard. Of course it would be fiction, as in, not real. Then we can all have a laugh at how many people say, “Did you hear what’s on the web about those guys at Surfing Mag!”

  • jeff

    In an era where collegiate and professional althletes are being busted for failed drug tests (performance enhancing and otherwise)at never before seen rates, this article is very relevant.

    With certain types of testosterone being able to leave the body in 8 hrs, there seems to be a lot of potential reward for a relatively low risk.

    Do you think professional surfers are more ethical than other athletes? It’s all about the chedder and living the good life and supporting your family or favela.

    It’s already a given that many pro surfers use drugs recreationally, so if they can get away with that (coke leaves the system hella quick) theyre probably getting away with using performance enhancing drugs too.

    Now Lance had the perfect do-gooder cover: Live Strong and all that.

    Maybe Slater’s cover is all that organic living stuff.

    Should there be more extensive testing done? Should the asp test and penalize for weed? Do I care all that much? Do you?

  • shark

    This is complete garbage. Did you even take a second to think about the potential consequences of writing an article like this?

  • plump blumpkin

    who is clark franklin?

  • Rowan420

    WTF everyone? I pissed myself reading this, learn to laugh at stereotypes instead of bitching about those who do

  • Ben

    Though I highly doubt that Slater is juiced, testing for PEDs is a great idea, especially if its kept completely random. They become particularly relevant in the context of injury rehabilitation. I certainly don’t want the champion of my favorite sport to have anything to do with PEDs.

  • The Big Dawg

    Wasted time reading and now posting this. You’ve read the comments too, so just take this shite down.

  • dane

    no puedo creer que digan esto de kelly eslater si es el mejor por que se va a drogar,es una locura arriba kelly!!!

  • lee

    comparing Armstrong and slater is ridiculous, cycling is about endurance, surfing is about feeling, there simply isn’t a drug that allows you to feel and respond to a wave.
    The only question this article has raised for me is WTF does Clark Franklin know about surfing?

  • Jean-Paul

    Dear Clark,

    YOU SUCK! Sensationalizing a “what if” is a clever disguise to stir up the Lance Armstrong pot and a reflection of journalistic boredom and complete lack of tact, taste, and respect. Funny how you forgot to mention that he GAVE back his 11th world title when he found out he was under a few points. Who does that? An honest man. I rckon you know LITTLE of the competitive surfing world. These guys don’t cut each other any slack. People have been trying to figure out Kelly for years and if was juicing, his fellow surfers would waste no time telling the world. Stupid articles like yours do nothing but substantiate rumoristic bullshit and speculation! Piss off! And SURFING MAGAZINE. YOU SHOULD KNOW BETTER. LETTER TO THE EDITOR. WHY DONT YOU DO YOUR JOB. EDIT.

  • george

    Can’t you all find enough cool, real stuff, to write about? It’s a big world and with a lot of waves covering the whole thing.I bet Clark Franklin plays video games more than he gets wet.

  • GBD

    What if? U can write any article about “what if?” This is just hypothetical gossip. I like the ice cream truck full of surfing staff analogy. Dare you to write that fictional Story.

  • Edfactor

    First of all, as agreed with a majority of readers that this article sucks balls and is a waste of time. I understand it’s hypothetical, but really? I’m not going to reiterate what’s been said. As for surfers on ‘roids, does it even really matter? Wave selection, knowledge, balls, and style are going to be increased by a performance drug? Yeah right. I guess the ‘roids would help out in the endurance department or put a little ummph in a hit, turn, or gouge, but what about setting up for a tube, drawing a good line, and escaping out? Maybe I don’t know enough about roids, but the I think the things that set Slater a part aren’t at a jocko level.

  • cruz


  • Roger

    Dear Surfingmagazine,

    How about you stop trying to divert attention from the real crisis in the surfing industry, grow a pair and write an article about the bullshit judging that went on with parko the other day. Why bother to write an article about this and even have it associated with a Legend like Kelly who prides himself on eating healthy and keeping fit. Instead of wondering what if he uses drugs..how about a more positive article showing the benefits of eating well and taking care of your body and how it could have a guy like Kelly still ripping at the age of 41.

    One of the many fans who are fed up with the corrupt ASP and its associates

  • Gerrie Warner

    To the author of this article: FUCK YOU!

  • eric

    ur an idiot guy… way to try and ruin slaters rep. ur seriously a dipshit. hope u get fired. ill take ur job.

  • R. Monteiro

    get a load of these assclowns! seriously, do any of you primates even read the article before you defecate in the comment section? at no point in any of your rambling incoherent responses do you even come close to something that resembles a logical thought. this dude doesn’t say that kelly is doping. he’s not taking away from kellys career or calling out a legend. hes simply toying around with a funny concept. get the fuck off your high horses or go read another article about mick’s diet in the surfer’s journal.

    hey clark franklin, you can play for my team any day.

  • Burnie Mac

    Kelly for President!! No GMO’s!! Why don’t you put your writers skills and peanut brain to use and write something about the truth of Monsanto? Instead of trying to start non-sense about the worlds most underrated Legend!!

  • Drew

    I’m kinda surprised that surfer magazine posted this but think it’s a good article. Don’t think the author intended to tarnish Kelly’s reputation whatsoever, the intent was to spark thought from it’s readers and never accuses Kelly of doping. It is a what if scenario that is pretty attributable to our current times with the impact of drugs in sports broadcast all over the place.

  • dick swinggin

    blood doping is not steroids…its just reinjecting your own oxgenated blood…if kelly was using steroids its not working cuz he’s a scrawney dude…pro surfing is like judging an art contest every one has their own opinion..yes this was stupid…asp bans athelets alot local psycho pros. who gives a fuck who wins…mine as well be the academy awards show and kelly has his sag card but kelly does bring it an stays on

  • anyone

    industry apologists, we get the joke, its just inappropriate and projects bullshit that makes you look desperate morons. Edge is not negative character inferrence and expounding how many titles others would win is petty. Your magazine exists because of your target, literally. What is Quik? Kelly… well now summer teeth’s pudgy ripper, but it all begs the question….


    A corporation floats a false cause of death, obstructs the coroner from releasing toxicology reports from the autopsy and solicits the public for familial assistance?

    Why Billabong?????

    Why get in front of the story with pure bullshit?

    But Clark Franklin would rather write clever comedy using an icon in an unflattering way…. how edgy. Is Samuels too expensive?

    Joke is on you RMonteiro and Suckmyballs…. industry tools.

    Clark, question Billabong if you want to have balls.

  • Amilcar Alhadas

    Se a minha avó tivesse culhões era o meu avô

  • Robert

    Kelly has been doping for years. It is common knowledge.

  • newesmyrnaburna

    wow this must be the most attention grubbing article to date, no other things to write about then put someone down with your doping theories? its called experince, is john john doping too or medina being they are like birds landing airs into combos, thats not normal also , now being 41 and surfing overhead is nothing new to a pro , this magazine sucks so boring

  • aldous

    american surf media was crucified for suppressing years of senanigans leading up to andy’s death; and rightfully so. backpeddaling magazine editors justified their gross negligence by claiming they weren’t really “journalists”. finally, these magazines were exposed for garbage they were/are.
    american surf media tell the masses about 1% of the truth regarding the surf world. if the public knew the truth, they’d be crestfallen.
    yes, there are a number of top professional surfers on PEDs, TODAY. this commentary (not an “article”) addresses this very real issue, in a very reasonable manner.
    the tragedy is the social commentary that follows. unfortunately, based on the comments here, the american public prefers to continue living in fantasyland. soma for the masses… ignorance is bliss…