Icon Kelly Slater continues to inspire at 50
It is no exaggeration to say the sport would not be where it is today without the American.
For over three decades, Slater has been leading, inspiring, and winning all there is to win. He’s also not done yet.
As recent as February 2022, just days before his 50th birthday, the greatest surfer of all time stunned the world to win Pipeline in Hawaii. The win was heroic and historic for a myriad of reasons, including the fact it was his eighth Pipe Masters crown, 30 years after he won the contest for the very first time.
His longevity stems from a deep connection with the sport. Speaking with NPR, Slater said, “Surfing is my first love. It saved my life in a lot of ways. It is like a real interpersonal relationship with the ocean and with all the friends I've made.”
As far as achievements go — you name it, he has done it.
Eleven world titles, 56 World Championship tour victories and the record for being both the youngest (20 in 1992) and oldest (39 in 2011) overall champion.
I just know how to win.
I know what it takes.
Injuries have seen him struggle in recent seasons, most notably in 2017 and 2018. He missed some of last year but impressed in the competitions he did take part in before returning to the summit in 2022.
While the numbers speak for themselves, the man himself is not finished writing his legacy’s story. He is keenly hunting his 12th world title and it is a real possibility given he is currently ranked number four in the world.
Slater has called time on competing a few times but retirement has never stuck.
In 2018, he said the 2019 season would be his last. But here we are in 2022 with Slater still competing midway through the WSL Championship Tour season.
Asked about retirement after his February victory in Hawaii, Slater told NPR he has been contemplating it but said, "It's that never-ending question for an athlete, because if you're able to win, you're still at a top level or high level.
I actually said if I won this event, I was going to walk away and retire right then. Part of me thought that I was going to do that. But I also told myself I was going to go surf this last year on tour and go say thank you and goodbye to everyone who has supported me along the way. And I think that's a bigger picture for me.
One thing is for sure, competing or not — Slater will never be far away from a surfboard.
Everyone who retires from surfing just goes surfing more.