Grace, Kelly

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The world is not enough. Ten is not nearly enough. Photo: Sherm



Sunday morning is already tiring, by its very nature, or rather sleepy. And the New York Times is a pleasant companion to the sloth, or rather, idleness. It is as pleasant as the sun breaking through fog. As coffee fresh from a stainless steel carafe. And as the sun shone, this Sunday morning, and as the coffee steamed, I opened the Times’ T magazine insert and read a story about Kelly Slater titled “Hangs Ten,” by Matt Warshaw.

And was made livid! Because Matt Warshaw postulated that Kelly Slater, our Kelly Slater, should ride off into the sunset. Our Kelly! Livid does not sit well next to sleepy and idle. They are nasty bedfellows.


Matt Warshaw writes, “Hell, I’m old. I’m 50. And I say to Kelly Slater: give us a wave and a smile and walk away. Do the thing that virtually every other sports legend, from Ali to Armstrong, has been unable to do. Go out on top. Nobody’s getting close to that record. Not in your lifetime, and probably not ever.”

Matt Warshaw is so wrong! Terribly wrong! And even though The Great Kelly Debate (should he retire or should he not) rages. Even rages to the New York Times insert magazine, the only correct, and thrilling, deduction is that Kelly should surf, competitively, forever. And ever. And.

Truth be told, Robert Kelly Slater is aging better than any living man. Better than Brad Pitt, better than George Clooney. Better than Keith Richards. He is immune to skin-crinkling UV rays. He is immune to moisture-sapping salt. His eyes, and I swear this is true, get bluer and bluer each time we speak. His skin a more even caramel. He is a perfect stasis of gravitas and youthful charm. He is wisdom and vigor. And it would be a mortal sin to deprive a surf public of that sort of genuine handsome. It would be a mortal sin to leave us with Heitor Alves. Which is to say nothing about how Kelly is actually surfing. Which is inspiring. Which is better than ever. Which is progressive and fluid and modern and classical and gorgeous and aggressive. Which stops people in their day and not because he is surfing awesome for an old man but because he is surfing awesome.

Beauty and grace. Kelly Slater is beauty and grace.

And he should concern himself not with lesser opinions. With implores for him to ride into a sunset. He should stay in the warm glow of our spotlight, forever, for that warm glow may well be his fountain of youth. Beauty and grace.

Aquila non capit muscas. —Chas Smith


p.s. If you feel rage while reading one man describe another man’s beauty the problem is, more likely than not, in your own heart. It is your very own latent and repressed desire. Let it free! Like an eagle!


Baby, Take it Off! is Chas Smith’s semi-regular column. His semi-regular Twitter stream is @chasdoesntsurf.