Is Kelly Slater Thinking Of Calling It Quits?

The 11x World Champion discusses.
Kelly Slater
Kelly, about to win the Volcom Pipe Pro © Zak Noyle/Red Bull Content Pool
By Mimi LaMontagne

Kelly Slater is 44 years old. He’s easily one of the most decorated, if not the most decorated, professional athletes on the face of our earth. But lately, he just hasn’t been pulling it together like he used to. Has age finally caught up to him? Is he distracted by his endeavours outside of surfing, like his high-end clothing label, Outerknown? Fresh off an earlier-than-normal loss at Bells Beach, we discuss…


Are you thinking about winning that 12th World Title at all, Kelly?

I haven’t really stared down a World Title in a couple of years. I’m going to have to adjust something, either my intensity or my focus or something. Get myself back. I don’t really feel like I’m right there in the mix right now.

Kelly Slater
Last year in Peniche... what dreams are made of © Trevor Moran / Red Bull Content Pool

Do you ever question whether you want to be in that mix anymore?

Yeah, definitely. I don’t know. I really don’t know if I want to be, or if I care enough anymore. I’m struggling with that to be honest. I mean, I hate losing heats, but I used to really thrive on the challenges… I was excited in the morning to wake up and have that challenge. And it would push me all the time, I’d excessively think about it when I free surfed. I don’t feel that way now. I really look forward to those heats where the waves are really good and there are a lot of waves to ride, so you don’t feel the pressure of competition and you’re more just surfing. So I don’t know. After having a few losses and not living up to your expectations, it kind of really starts to wear on you.

It’s not really like you, Kelly, to say something like that…

I probably haven’t had a bad run in my career like I’ve had the last few years… so you’ve never heard me say it. I mean I had a couple years where I didn’t win a contest, in the early 2000’s, but now it’s becoming like a routine almost. I don’t think that’s any kind of a secret. I just haven’t had the results that I expect out of myself.

Kelly Slater
Kelly Slater: up, up and soon-to-be, possibly away © Trevor Moran / Red Bull Content Pool

Do you think that could be caused by the distractions of your outside projects, like Outerknown?

I mean, it’s been a little bit of just letting off the gas bottle, in terms of how hard I push myself. I have had some distractions and more pressure in my life, and I’m not going to blame those – I still go out and put everything I can into a heat. But for me, I just feel like I haven’t surfed as freely in my mind in heats. You know? Like, when you’re really surfing well and competing well you make really easy decisions. You don’t think about them, you don’t question them. And I haven’t been doing that. So I sort of need to find that place again. Usually when you lose in those situations it’s because you got out-surfed, but you surfed well.

You’re 44 years old, and you’ve been competing for decades. Are you thinking of calling it quits?

Um, I don’t know. I mean I’ve been thinking about that for 15 years. Even my mom texted me and said, you should think about it! But then again I’ve said that before and you came back and won the World Title that year. So, I mean, I don’t think anything is impossible. I just think things haven’t been done – people haven’t been on the tour at my age, and it’s really easy for people to accept that it could be the time, and that adversity can be overcome at this age. It really comes down to freeing your mind up and being healthy, and having those goals and having that desire. So for me, I see myself as having kind of a long-term slump right now. There are a lot of sportsmen that I wouldn’t be surprised if they came back and were able to be dominant. At least for certain periods of time.

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