The Greatest Surfer?

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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