Kelly Slater steps into the cool water that coats the sandy beach and wades deep into the salty tide. He lies down on his board and gently paddles across the surface of the water, the bright sun gleaming overhead. In rhythm with the natural strength of the ocean swells, he heads to catch a wave that’s about to break. For a pro surfer like Slater, this harmonious interaction with the ocean is not just a sport or recreational pursuit—it’s another day at the office. Dubbed the “greatest surfer of all time,” Robert Kelly Slater began honing his wave-riding skills at age 5 in his native Florida. “I loved going to the beach and the ocean was just a progression from getting off the land,” he simply says.
Now at 36, this remarkable eight-time ASP (Association of Surfing Professionals) World Tour champion is currently ranked number one in the world. In 1992, he became the youngest world champion at age 20 and has continued to dominate the surfing world. Sponsored by Quiksilver since 1990, he effortlessly shatters records with impeccable ability and style; including being the oldest world champion at age 34, the only surfer to score a “Perfect 20” heat total in ASP history (Billabong Tahiti Pro in 2005), and the most elite tour wins in pro surfing history (34 total).
This gifted athlete also boasts his range of talents out of the water with an extensive résumé of television and film roles, video-game appearances, an autobiography titled “Pipe Dreams: A Surfer’s Journey,” and charitable contributions. He works frequently with ocean preservation groups. He plays guitar and formerly had a band known, appropriately, as The Surfers. And, he’s had a busy personal life dating a string of beautiful actresses and supermodels, from Pamela Anderson to Gisele Bundchen.
Slater is a regular visitor to the Monterey Bay area, where he surfs and also plays one of his other favorite sports: golf. He plays rounds at Tehama and has been a competitor in the annual Pebble Beach National Pro-Am golf tournament. He’s said in the past that he plays golf every day when the waves are bad, and several times a week when the surf is good. Slater took a break from chasing the waves in Fiji—where he scored his third win on the 2008 ASP World Tour—to chat with Carmel Magazine about everything from surfing in Santa Cruz to fantasizing about being a pro golfer.
Q: You’ve been known to make the rounds hrough the Santa Cruz surf scene. So, how are the waves?
KS: I’ve only been there a couple of times but they’ve got a few good waves. Cold water up your way!
CM: When you visit, what do you think makes the Monterey Bay such a special location?
KS: It’s just a naturally beautiful place—the land, the cypress trees, the coastline. Some great food and golf, too.
CM: What thoughts run through your mind when you’re surfing?
KS: Nothing different from what you’d expect—just figuring out the way the waves are breaking. Figuring out life between waves, I guess.
CM: What surfing competition do you look forward to every year?
KS: I really like the [Quiksilver Pro Gold oast] in Australia.There’s a full-on surf culture there—surfing in Australia is like football in America.
CM: You’re constantly on tour throughout the world. Where do you see yourself settling down?
KS: Australia is home sometimes, Florida still, California for now [in Santa Barbara], and Hawaii from time to time. [It’s] too hard to settle on one right now but, I think Hawaii’s my favorite for weather, surf, golf, and relaxing.
CM: You also have a 12-year-old daughter,Taylor. What’s your key to balancing your personal life and professional life?
KS: Just being clear about what serves what purpose, and maintaining enough time so I don’t go crazy with professional obligations. Making sure I’m doing what I love even if that’s working.
CM: Is there a certain regimen that you follow to stay in such good shape?
KS: Don’t eat too much. No carbs and proteins together, fruit in the mornings, snacks in between meals. I don’t work out a lot—just stay active doing fun stuff. I love jiu-jitsu and golf. I’m not any good at jiu-jitsu but I love it.
CM: I understand you’re pretty good at guitar, but even better at golf. What do you think about the links in Monterey Bay?
KS: I love Pebble—great course. Cypress is amazing. The front nine at Spyglass is also incredible. I’ve got secret fantasies about being a pro golfer. If I weren’t so good at surfing I’d probably just quit and practice golf all the time.
CM: Any more upcoming film projects where we should expect to see you?
KS: I’m currently starting filming for an IMAX [documentary] over the next year.The working title is ‘Ultimate Wave’ and it’s about the science and riding of waves. Bringing our sport to film through the experience, I guess you could say.
CM: What would you be doing if you hadn’t become a pro surfer?
KS: I love alternative medicine and knowing about the fundamental functioning of the body internally. Bioelectric medicine and homeopathy have interested me for years, so maybe something in that realm.
CM: What’s your ultimate career goal?
KS: Happiness in all aspects of life. I’ve got it pretty good.